A lot of people like to tout American exceptionalism, or the idea that the U.S. is qualitatively different than every other country on the planet. I don’t know about that, but I can tell you one thing that separates us from a lot of other industrialized nations is our dogged tradition for the 4-way intersection. A lot of other countries have for years relied on the yield and merge roundabout for maintaining traffic flow at the confluence of two or more roads, but we like to bring everybody to a halt in such instances, because Freedom.
That’s not to say that we don’t have roundabouts here in the U.S.. In fact, I typically drive through a pair of them on my morning commute every weekday. Those however, have not been put in place to ease traffic flow. Quite the contrary, they have been dropped into the intersections as a means to vex drivers – literally called traffic calming measures. The intersection islands were the result of a class-action lawsuit brought about by homeowners against their city after the municipality attempted to direct traffic from the freeway through a heavily residential neighborhood to a high-end retail strip that provided a sizable chunk of tax revenue.
Now the asphalt rings sit in the middle of the still 4-way stop sign controlled intersections making turns awkward and forcing cars to wait in line to make a right turn. Yep, progress! Elsewhere, as I understand it, the roundabouts are done right, allowing vehicles to traverse the intersection of two roads with little more than a slight turn of the wheel and appreciative nod to other merging members of traffic. Has that been your experience? Or, have you found other countries’ roundabouts as inscrutable as I have the lame faux editions here? What is your preference, roundabouts or 4-way intersections?
Image: Bicycle Dutch