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Transportation Government United States News

Roundabout Revolution Sweeping US 1173

Posted by timothy
from the how-to-spend-your-stimulus-bribe dept.
chrb writes "BBC News reports that U.S. cities are installing more roundabouts than ever before. The first British-style roundabout appeared in the U.S. in 1990, and now some cities — such as Carmel in Indiana, are rapidly replacing intersections with roundabouts. Supporters claim that roundabouts result in increased traffic flow, reductions in both the severity and incidence of accidents, and fuel savings. Critics say that roundabouts are more difficult to navigate for unfamiliar American drivers, lead to higher taxes and accidents, and require everyday acts of spontaneous co-operation and yielding to others — acts that are 'un-American.'" As a driver who's hit all of the continental U.S. states except North Dakota, I dread roundabouts and rotaries for all the near accidents (and at least one actual accident) I've seen them inspire, and have been unhappy to see them spread. Spontaneous driver cooperation doesn't necessarily need the round shape, either.
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Roundabout Revolution Sweeping US

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  • Really bad idea. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by yog (19073) * on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:13AM (#36652362) Homepage Journal
    Roundabouts (or rotaries, or traffic circles, as they're known in parts of the U.S.) induce confusion and fear in many drivers, although they can be useful at times. This article [liveinsurancenews.com] from an insurance periodical suggests that it's aggressive drivers who are making rotaries more dangerous.

    I like rotaries for two reasons: when there's no traffic, it's nicer than having to stop at an arbitrary red light and wait for a mandatory 2 minutes while the lights cycle. Secondly, if I am not sure whether to turn or not, I can just take another spin around the circle until I see the street sign I'm looking for (assuming there is one, not a given on some of the sign-challenged Northeast roads).

    But I loathe rotaries when there's a lot of traffic. You can sit there for a lot longer than you would at a red light. Plus, some places make a rotary out of a 5-way intersection which can be incredibly confusing. It's a tradeoff, I guess, but overall I'd rather drive in a straight line :)
    • Re:Really bad idea. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:17AM (#36652404) Homepage Journal

      But I loathe rotaries when there's a lot of traffic. You can sit there for a lot longer than you would at a red light.

      I don't see why it would be any longer than a four-way stop. And it'd be an improvement over a couple intersections in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that don't detect a bicycle parked directly over the crack in the road where the vehicle sensor loop is buried. I sometimes have to wait eight minutes for a truck to pull up behind me and trip the vehicle sensor so that my lane gets a green light.

      • Re:Really bad idea. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:23AM (#36652470)

        Most places have exemptions for bicycles and motorbikes at intersections for these reasons. Basically, the law says that you treat the red light as a stop sign and proceed when it's safe. You should check your local laws.

      • by OzPeter (195038)

        I don't see why it would be any longer than a four-way stop.

        If you are at an intersection of a road that has traffic going primarily along one road, and you are on the other - then yes you can wait a fair bit of time at a roundabout for a break in the traffic in order to proceed. Roundabouts, work best when traffic approaches the intersection from all directions at a similar rate.

      • Re:Really bad idea. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday July 04, 2011 @12:14PM (#36653190) Homepage

        DISCLAIMER: I am not a city engineer, but I've spent far too much spare time researching these issues.

        They take longer for two main reasons: in heavy traffic, a full roundabout is either constantly moving, or dead stopped like a parking lot. In either case, you can't get in because everyone is bumper-to-bumper.

        The heavy traffic scenario is where city planners fail hard, because they too easily forget that roundabouts still shuffle the same number of vehicles into the same congested streets. If these get backed up, so does the roundabout.

        There are, fundamentally, three solutions to traffic, and nobody wants to implement them:

        a. less cars
        b. more lanes
        c. less concentration in commercial and industrial sectors

        Solution A requires vastly improved public transit, for which no city official wants to shoulder the cost, or more telework which employers are still reluctant to undertake. Solution B requires expropriation to make room, and often leads to complicated entry/exit ramps, and all that costs a shitload of money. Solution C depends on Solution A, so we're doubly screwed.

        • by Marcika (1003625)
          There might be a solution D: stretch out the peak hours to sufficiently flatten the peaks.

          Mandate flexible working hours across major employers, maybe institute peak-hour congestion charges on roads. It might be perceived as evil government meddling by some, but it would internalize some congestion externalities...

          • by Ravadill (589248)
            Our local government tried to reduce peak hour traffic by getting businesses in the CBD area to implement flexible hours (i.e. I believe the suggested start hours were anywhere between 6am and 10am, instead of the usual fixed 8 or 9am start), somehow all it did was stretch our peak hour out, instead of deadlock from 7am-8am we now have it from 6am-10am.
      • by jeremymiles (725644) on Monday July 04, 2011 @01:11PM (#36653784) Homepage Journal
        Jump off your bike, lie it down on the ground over the sensor. Usually does the trick.
    • by Kokuyo (549451) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:19AM (#36652424) Journal

      Both opinions in TFA are right. The traffic flow, overall, is better but they also lead to many people not really knowing how to behave in them.

      We have a lot of them in Switzerland and their number is growing. I feel we have more roundabouts than normal intersections now. Subjectively, of course. And still many people don't know how to behave.

      Two factors are important: Build them large enough, so traffic flowing in has a chance to anticipate an open spot. And make people aware of how they work. Tell it on the radio, in TV spots and so on.

      In Switzerland, cars in the roundabout have the right of way (interestingly enough, though, if that thing has more than one lane, inner lanes DON'T have right of way, which makes no sense...) and you only signal right when you LEAVE it. OR you signal right if you know you'll be leaving at the next exit.

      It works very well, in most cases and I have yet to hear of accidents in them.

      • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:23AM (#36652466) Homepage

        Both opinions in TFA are right. The traffic flow, overall, is better but they also lead to many people not really knowing how to behave in them.

        Um, people can learn....right?

        If we never tried anything new because people don't know how to do it yet then we'd still be banging rocks together to make dinner.

        • by wagnerrp (1305589)

          Um, people can learn....right?

          No, they can't. Just look at the dipshits who cause problems on highway on-ramps because they can't figure out how to safely merge with traffic. Roundabouts will be the same thing, but just at lower speeds.

        • by tinkerghost (944862) on Monday July 04, 2011 @12:34PM (#36653440) Homepage

          Um, people can learn....right?

          Awww, how cute. Look everyone, he still has faith in humanity.

      • Re:Really bad idea. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Heed00 (1473203) on Monday July 04, 2011 @12:39PM (#36653500)

        Two factors are important: Build them large enough, so traffic flowing in has a chance to anticipate an open spot. And make people aware of how they work. Tell it on the radio, in TV spots and so on.

        Exactly. These are two important points. Canada is also adopting the roundabout in some areas and the size is a real issue as many are so small that you might as well just put a 4-way stop or traffic lights in because the traffic just backs up in all four directions anyway -- the roundabout is too small to allow the traffic to keep flowing and merging. On the point of education, I received a flyer in the mail at the beginning of the year providing instructions on how to properly use a roundabout. You can see the website it pointed to here: http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/gettingaround/roundabouts.asp?OpenDocument&mode=1 [regionofwaterloo.ca]

        The interesting thing for me was that I had been in England since 2000 and only returned back to my native Canada in 2010 to suddenly see roundabouts as part of the roadways. My first reaction was, "But almost nobody would have taken a driving test that would include roundabout protocol" -- this was painfully obvious when I saw the "seat of the pants" approach many took to coming upon a roundabout. I'm now back in England and actually kept the flyer I received to show to the locals here -- I have rarely seen such laughter upon reading a pamphlet.

        I'm guessing, but I would wager roundabouts are cheaper to implement than the other traffic flow solutions -- the authorities like to talk about safety, improved traffic flow etc. but when you put in a new element on the roadways with minimal education and build it on an ineffective scale, then that makes me think that cost is the driving factor.

    • by morari (1080535)

      I always thought that traffic circles differed from roundabouts in that entering cars are controlled by a stop, instead of simply yielding?

      I really love roundabouts when placed in the right situation. It's better than coming to up on a stop sign (or worse, some arbitrary traffic light) at dead or lightly traveled intersections. In heavier traffic though, I'm really not sure if they'd be any better (or worse) than a traffic light. Of course, traffic lights themselves have a lot of room for improvement in the

      • by tom17 (659054)

        Quite often in the UK, busier roundabouts can be assisted by traffic lights at certain times of the day. This way, it's free flowing when the roads are clear, but when there is simply too much traffic, the lights help out.

        • by DarenN (411219)

          Roundabouts work really well when you have more-or-less even traffic leaving at each exit. If you don't, for instance if there's one primary route that always leaves at the second or higher exit, it can really jam up. In Ireland there was a real roundabout craze for a while so there's loads of them and many drivers just don't bother to indicate correctly, which makes them very dangerous. Should be a flogging offense, dammit!

    • by strength_of_10_men (967050) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:28AM (#36652558)

      Here in Michigan, we're starting to replace stop sign/lights intersections with roundabouts, and on the whole, I really like them... when done right.

      But as always, leave it to the US govt to take a good idea and f*** it up beyond hope. [a2gov.org] I couldn't find a picture of the traffic sign approaching these roundabouts but it's even more confusing than the picture.

      The first time I went through this roundabout, I couldn't read the sign fast enough to really tell where to go and basically dove into the first roundabout in almost blind panic. Luckily it was late at night and there were no other cars, but I can only imagine the mass confusion at high traffic.

    • by dotbot (2030980)

      But I loathe rotaries when there's a lot of traffic. You can sit there for a lot longer than you would at a red light.

      In Britain, some busier roundabouts have part-time traffic lights for that very reason. (And, yes, the lights are used at busy times only... :)

    • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:33AM (#36652644)

      Roundabouts (or rotaries, or traffic circles, as they're known in parts of the U.S.) induce confusion and fear in many drivers

      Just because they're new and different.

      People absolutely freaked out when my town got its first roundabout. Now, a few years later, nobody cares.

      Give it some time and they'll be as commonplace and unremarkable as anything else on the road.

      This article from an insurance periodical suggests that it's aggressive drivers who are making rotaries more dangerous.

      Aggressive drivers make everything more dangerous.

      I like rotaries for two reasons: when there's no traffic, it's nicer than having to stop at an arbitrary red light and wait for a mandatory 2 minutes while the lights cycle. Secondly, if I am not sure whether to turn or not, I can just take another spin around the circle until I see the street sign I'm looking for (assuming there is one, not a given on some of the sign-challenged Northeast roads).

      But I loathe rotaries when there's a lot of traffic. You can sit there for a lot longer than you would at a red light. Plus, some places make a rotary out of a 5-way intersection which can be incredibly confusing. It's a tradeoff, I guess, but overall I'd rather drive in a straight line :)

      Like anything else, you need the right tool for the job.

      Lots of places are hearing about how awesome roundabouts are and are throwing them in everywhere - even where they aren't helpful.

      If you've got a high volume of traffic, you need a larger roundabout. Something with a couple lanes to it, to handle the higher traffic. But that means it needs to take up a larger area. And, in many cases, it's just easier to do a stop light.

      We've got a couple 5-way intersections here in town, and they'd actually be less-confusing with a properly-implemented roundabout. You just have to ensure that there's enough space between intersections that people can enter/exit safely.

      • Anecdotal evidence and all, but some places don't like roundabouts even after decades. I grew up in Edmonds, WA and my parents still live there. The city put a roundabout in the center of town before I was born, and they've been trying for years to put one in a neighborhood tellingly called 'Five Corners' near where my parents live. Every few years they have meetings of the local residents trying to sell them on 'improvements' including a roundabout for Five Corners. Almost all of the residents hate the ide
      • by Khomar (529552) on Monday July 04, 2011 @12:02PM (#36653054) Journal

        One of the big pitfalls for roundabouts that I saw in Montana when they tried to implement them was not taking into account snow removal (at big deal in Bozeman, MT) and emergency vehicles. They placed large concrete islands in the middle of the intersection, and there was not enough room for the larger vehicles to navigate around it. The snow plows couldn't even see the island after a big storm and would run right over it.

        They are not the end-all solution, but in certain circumstances, I can see where they would be beneficial.

      • Re:Really bad idea. (Score:5, Informative)

        by ymarcus (2339618) on Monday July 04, 2011 @12:41PM (#36653530)
        Although it seems like traffic circles should be more dangerous, I'm not sure the data backs this up. This article, [iihs.org] for example, cites several studies that show a significant decrease in accidents and an even more significant decrease in "severe injury" crashes when roundabouts replace traffic lights. The latter, at least, makes sense since roundabouts virtually remove the possibility of head on crashes.

        However, as other posters have pointed out, there are several kinds of intersection, each with their own factors that must be accounted for, (traffic volume, etc.) and it is unclear if the studies have taken into account the differing characteristics of the intersections that were replaced.

        Additionally, the IIHS, for one, considers roundabouts distinct from rotaries. Since many others do not make this distinction, it is difficult to tell what kind of traffic circles were studied, and what kind of traffic circles are being installed in the US's "roundabout revolution."

        Either way, the knee-jerk reaction of "rotaries are dangerous" at the least needs a conditional and at best is quite false.

    • If roundabouts are causing confusion, just be fortunate that they haven't decided to start building magic roundabouts [wikipedia.org]
    • by JimMcc (31079)

      The "go around again" option is a really great feature of rotaries. While motorcycling in England we weren't sure which smaller road to take from the large rotary in Leeds. So we went around again while my wife unfolded the table sized Michelin road map, and again while I read highway numbers to her. Then happily headed down the road we needed to take. We didn't block up traffic, have to go down a wrong road, bang a u-turn, or all the other problems of traditional intersections. Although I'm sure that we ca

    • by DrXym (126579)

      Roundabouts (or rotaries, or traffic circles, as they're known in parts of the U.S.) induce confusion and fear in many drivers, although they can be useful at times. This article [liveinsurancenews.com] from an insurance periodical suggests that it's aggressive drivers who are making rotaries more dangerous.

      The fear is induced because people are clueless how to navigate them. If they become a regular fact of life, and of driving exams I would expect the fear would be the same as it is in other countries. Wait until you get your first magic roundabout and then we'll talk about fear.

    • by SvetBeard (922070) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:52AM (#36652948)
      Like any tool, roundabouts have to be used in appropriate situations. I used to work in traffic engineering, and adding roundabouts (or signals and stop sings, for that matter) requires careful study and the meeting of certain criteria (called warrants). Warrants include such things as daily vehicle volume, peak hourly volumes, pedistrian volumes, and delay times. In the right place, roundabouts allow traffic to flow better than a signal and with greater safety. Head-on and t-bone collisions (the two most dangerous types of traffic accidents) are virtually eliminated. The accidents that do happen will be at a lower speed and a gentler angle.

      All of that said, there is always the problem of the unwritten "political" warrant. The mayor wants a stop sign (or signal or roundabout) here, so one is going in even if it is worse for the traffic. Of course, there are also fads to put in roundabouts (or what have you). Some of the roundabouts are going to be unwarranted or conditions will change. Roundabouts work best when applied correctly.
  • Wow.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jawtheshark (198669) * <.moc.krahsehtwaj. .ta. .todhsals.> on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:17AM (#36652400) Homepage Journal

    require everyday acts of spontaneous co-operation and yielding to others — acts that are 'un-American.'"

    Wow... Just Wow... That's an argument against roundabouts?!? I personally find that one of the most sad statements I've read in a long time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CrackedButter (646746)

      Says a lot about America when 'spontaneous co-operation and yielding to others' is considered un-American. Not sure how being unfamiliar with something is actually a bad thing or a case for an argument, everything is unfamiliar to a person as they progress through life.

      Don't worry though, this generation will die off, just like the generation that didn't understand the Internet, and then the rest of us can carry on with our lives.

      • Yes, the argument about unfamiliarity is not a great one either, but I can understand it. It took a good 10 years for people to understand them properly in Europe. I got them covered in my driving lessons, but people older than me had to learn them without coaching. Even today, you find people who don't handle them properly, but for most people they aren't confusing any more. It will take time, that is sure. A bit like switching to metric would take time, but that's a whole other can of worms.

      • Re:Wow.... (Score:4, Informative)

        by berzerke (319205) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:35AM (#36652672) Homepage

        I think the "spontaneous co-operation and yielding to others" varies a lot with location. I live in Texas, and once you get out of the city, it's quite common. On small roads, the people will even move over to the shoulder to let you pass. In the city (well Houston at least), it's not as common, but it still happens. I generally try to do this out of enlightened self-interest. Better to avoid an accident than be in one. Especially with 18 wheelers, where, right or wrong, if I get in an accident with them, I lose bigtime. I'd rather the lane change be controlled than become a pancake.

        But when I recently drove to California (Long Beach in particular), I noticed such actions were unknown. When I stopped to let a guy out of a parking lot (it was a red light anyway), he looked at me like I was some kind of weirdo. The whole time I was there, I never saw any sort of cooperation. But I did have to play chicken almost daily. Made me appreciate Texas drivers.

        • Re:Wow.... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Mr. McGibby (41471) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:58AM (#36653018) Homepage Journal

          While this sort of "cooperation" can be occasionally useful, I find it generally annoying here in Utah where many folks do the same things. They're think they're being nice by letting folks in, stopping in the middle of traffic, not taking their proper turn at four way stops, and other such nonsense. Well, you're not being nice, you're confusing everyone around you because they don't know what you're going to do next. And it causes accidents. The traffic laws were designed to work without me needing to be able to look at you signalling to me from inside your car. Just follow the laws. If I have to wait, then I wait, but let's not cause an accident.

    • It's against American roundabouts. Almost all the ones near where I live are too small (having seen them utilized effectively I Europe, ours are 25% of the size they should be) and/or are two lanes with particular turning rules that are only painted on the ground, force lane transitions, and are covered in snow during the winter meaning people who know what the ground says will be cursing the people that don't (and vice-versa). They really did take the worst features of each type of traffic flow and merge
    • by mjwx (966435)

      require everyday acts of spontaneous co-operation and yielding to others — acts that are 'un-American.'"

      Wow... Just Wow... That's an argument against roundabouts?!? I personally find that one of the most sad statements I've read in a long time.

      I was hoping that the submitter had a British sense of humour and was using a little known concept called sarcasm.

  • by dorpus (636554) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:18AM (#36652406)

    Washington DC has had roundabouts since 1791, when the city was built modeled on European cities.

  • by Ogive17 (691899) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:20AM (#36652432)
    They've been around in the US far longer than 21 years. The one in my small town preceded me (born in '79). The flow is the same as what is shown on the wiki (other than the right/left side of the road difference).
  • We've had a few put in, all of them in residential areas, replacing four way stops mostly. They would be a disaster in high speed, high traffic corridors, but in areas where the likelihood of two cars encountering one another is low, let alone more than two cars, they speed things up nicely.
  • About time too (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stormthirst (66538) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:22AM (#36652452)

    They are only a problem for people who are unused to them. As with all change, it will take time for people to get used to them.

    If it is aggressive drivers (as previously commented) who are causing accidents, this will push their insurance up and perhaps they will become more cautious. Isn't that the nature of free market economics that the Americans seem so fond of?

  • Higher Taxes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajo_arctus (1215290) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:22AM (#36652456) Homepage

    I'm British, so maybe I'm biased, but I'm pretty sure that roundabouts do not increase taxes. Seems like an odd claim to make.

    FWIW, roundabouts aren't really that difficult to use. You just drive round them.

    • Higher taxes? Its the standard answer to any question that America seems to come up with, despite being quite the reverse. Americans hate paying taxes, even if its something for their own good, and they receive a direct benefit from those taxes.

      Most intersections in the states require lights and electronics that need to be maintained, requiring a small team to replace light bulbs etc.
      A roundabout would probably need a gardener once a year. Possibly not even that if it's paved.

  • As long as rotaries are well marked, sign-wise, they're relatively safe. Just like most city-driving, collisions are at much lower speeds than on straightaways/highways. But if it's a large rotary, it needs a clear sign stating that it's a one-way circle. Otherwise, it's quite possible late at night with low traffic, someone will make the wrong turn, and a head-to-head collision can be quite dangerous. This comes from personal experience in one of the thousands of smaller towns that rely on traffic cour
  • by schwit1 (797399) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:27AM (#36652524)

    How do pedestrians get across roads with rotaries? With traffic lights there is a clear system for pedestrian traffic. As I approach a rotary as a driver I am looking for space between traffic to merge into the circle. I am not looking for pedestrians.

    • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:34AM (#36652648)

      Zebra crossing.

    • by Mathieu Lutfy (69) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:48AM (#36652880) Homepage

      A few places in Montreal use round-abouts with zebra crossings for pedestrians, with a small sign that says "100$ fine if you do not give priority to pedestrians". While there are always exceptions, it works pretty well.

      Cars drive a bit slower, but given that they don't have long lights to wait for, it is generally faster. Win-win.

      (which is a bit surprising, since Montreal is probably one of the worst cities in North America with regards to respecting road signs, by either motorists, cyclists or pedestrians, but my impression is that when removing road clutter, people kind of start thinking again)

    • by Andy_R (114137) on Monday July 04, 2011 @12:08PM (#36653130) Homepage Journal

      The thing I find puzzling about the American resistance to roundabouts is that they actually contain no new concepts at all, you don't have to 'learn' anything to use them. Topologically, they are just a one way street with T-junctions.

      Ever pulled out of a side street into one-way traffic? That's exactly what you do when you join a roundabout. Even turned off a one way street into a side street? That's exactly what you do when you leave.

      To answer your question, have you ever walked along a main street and crossed a side street that didn't have traffic lights? That's exactly what you do when you cross at a roundabout.

    • by david.given (6740) <dg.cowlark@com> on Monday July 04, 2011 @12:10PM (#36653140) Homepage Journal

      Usually, they just cross --- I live in Reading, UK, and it's full of roundabouts that work like this. There's usually an island between the two lanes just as the road enters the roundabout; partly this is acts as a spreader to split the lanes and make the junctions easier to manage for cars, but as a side effect it gives pedestrians somewhere to stop in the middle, so they only have to cross one lane at a time.

      When I started to drive I hated roundabouts; there were too many places to look and I couldn't track all the inputs needed to negotiate them safely. Once I got used to them, I really like them. They scale beautifully to the level of traffic and varying number of exits and can keep the traffic moving smoothly up to quite heavy loads. On really heavy traffic there's various tricks you can do to keep them working well: one cunning one is the use of spiral lanes. In this variant, as you approach the roundabout you move into the correct lane for your destination, merge onto the roundabout and follow your lane straight into the appropriate exit.

      They're particularly good on motorway exits; a common approach is to have an elevated roundabout above the motorway, with sliproads connecting roundabout exits to the motorway. You can leave the motorway, merge onto the roundabout, and then it becomes trivial to select your exit either to a minor road or back onto the motorway in either direction.

      They don't work well when the traffic isn't evenly distributed; imagine a four-exit roundabout with heavy traffic moving east-west and you want to get on to the roundabout from the south. You'll end up spending quite some time waiting for a gap, because you have to give way to the traffic that's already on the roundabout. If there's traffic coming from the north, it all works properly; they enter the roundabout, force the east-west traffic to stop to give way to them, which creates a gap that you can move out into.

      They completely fail when you put lights on them. Once that happens, all the elegant traffic management falls apart completely and you end up with complicated, frustrating multistage junctions. There's one terrible roundabout in Reading (at Winnersh Triangle; locals will know it) where not only have they put lights on it but in a desperate attempt to solve the traffic problems have actually put a road straight across the middle. Years of tuning have reduced the irritation level to merely annoying, but it's still a poor junction. But then, there isn't really such a thing as a good junction at that level of traffic.

      Right now the Reading council has a thing about replacing small, effective roundabouts with lights. Everyone is screaming high heaven about it. One set of lights they just put in (Shinfield Road) has pretty much doubled my commute time, due to lousy design, failure to do the research, delays, and generally Not Being A Roundabout.

  • you probably shouldn't be on the road as you are already a danger to others. Nothing worse then someone behind a wheel that is unrure of themselves and their surroundings.

  • Just how are these things supposed to raise taxes? The article claimed they're cheaper than traffic lights, so how the hell do they cause higher taxes?

  • UnAmerican? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tbannist (230135) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:28AM (#36652544)

    It's interesting that cooperation and yielding to others is considered "un-American" by at least some Americans. That simple statements speaks volumes about the dire straights that the United States is in.

    Maybe these traffic circles are a good idea after all. Maybe it will teach more Americans that cooperation is not a synonym for communism. Maybe it will teach them that they can profit from cooperation. Or maybe the ones who refuse to co-operate will slowly be killed off in a never-ending stream of roundabout traffic accidents. Either way, that might be best for the country in the long run...

  • "Roundabouts" are nothing new in the U.S.. They were called "traffic circles" when I was a kind in New Jersey. Eventually the state went to considerable expense to tear them out and put intersections with traffic lights back in. They led to a lot of accidents.

    I hate to see other people have to relearn a lesson that an entire state already figured out.

    • by geniice (1336589)

      Traffic circles are not roundabouts:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundabout#Difference_from_traffic_circles [wikipedia.org]

    • The new breed are fundamentally different in construction from classic NJ/DC rotaries - they are smaller, they don't have lights, speeds are lower, and traffic entering always yields to traffic already in the circle.
    • by definate (876684)

      LOL What you're saying is, people from the US, are incapable of learning very very very basic traffic rules, that people in MANY other countries, can learn without hassle.

      Hilarious. I love the US, where "driving in circles" is considered a hard maneuver which causes a lot of accidents.

  • by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:30AM (#36652588) Homepage

    I'd like to start by saying that I'm British, from an area with lots of roundabouts.

    Roundabouts do work, but only in certain circumstances. They work well for junctions where there isn't a 'dominant flow' of traffic in a particular direction and traffic isn't too heavy; right turns (left turns in the US) are easier to accomodate than at a traffic light junction, most of the time there is a short wait for traffic entering (if at all) and no particular movement clogs up the other arms of the roundabout.

    Where there is a dominant flow, traffic from the other directions can be made to wait a very long time for a gap if one of the roads is constantly spewing traffic onto the roundabout. If the traffic exceeds the capacity of the roundabout, or there is a bottleneck on one of the roads off the roundabout, then all hell breaks loose as traffic is unable to leave and blocks off all the other exits.

    In some situations roundabouts can increase accidents; especially when placed to connect a very minor road with little traffic to a major one, as drivers can get so used to 'nothing coming' from the minor road that they plough onto the roundabout without looking properly. Roundabouts near petrol stations can suffer from lots of spinouts, as drivers skid on diesel spilt from overfilled trucks.

    (Perhaps) interestingly, in the UK the current fad is to put traffic signals onto roundabouts to increase their capacity, as they're often used here for major junctions with a shitload of traffic, and they jam up. For light to moderate traffic loads, connecting roads of relatively equal importance, they work well.

  • by sribe (304414)

    ...more difficult to navigate for unfamiliar American drivers...

    Yeah, in other words: they're traps for old people, who get stuck in them and go around and around until they pass out from exhaustion and die. You see, once Obama figured out that his "death panels" were unacceptable to voters, this is what he came up with to reduce Medicare expenses.

  • by stokessd (89903) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:32AM (#36652618) Homepage

    I've driven over a thousand miles in the last three years in the british isles, and I really like roundabouts. I also drive in Carmel IN several times a year, and roundabouts here are a whole different ballgame. The British isles have roads that are small and terrain that makes them not arrow straight (like in Carmel). Many british roads are only one lane with "passing places". These passing place roads would kill american drivers. So it seems that the British citizenry seem to understand that the road is not "theirs" and everybody is in this together. So there is a sense of cooperation.

    The Carmel roundabouts are driven by people who are used to lanes that are 30 feet wide, and who have a sense of entitlement that their Yukon Denali is here now, and everybody better get out of the way. Then you throw in a mix of confused drivers and aggressive drivers, and the Carmel roundabouts aren't as enjoyable as the british ones.

    But honestly, Must things suck in America compared to the british isles.

    Don't get me started about the lack of proper transmissions here in the states; we apparently think our cars should be golf carts.

    Sheldon

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:33AM (#36652638)

    here [wikipedia.org]

    The US is conveniently located close to the UK.

    Notice twice as many fatalities per 100000 vehicles in the US (15) than the UK (7).

    It's a similary picture in most of Western Europe and there are plenty of roundabouts all over Europe.

    Doesn't really prove anything, but it seems unlikelly that roundabouts significantly increase the number of traffic accidents. Even if they do, they certainly do not increase the number of deaths.

  • by vijayiyer (728590) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:34AM (#36652658)

    Would you rather be t-boned by an idiot driver who runs a stop sign or hit in a glancing blow by an idiot driver who can't navigate a roundabout? A good roundabout where the curbing forces tangential entry is safer.

    • by Inda (580031)
      Getting rear-ended is more common on roundabouts in the UK. Someone tries to pull away then changes their mind (lawful) and the person behind drives into the back of them (unlawful).

      People (the young) sometimes try and take them too fast and crash into railings.

      Actual crashes on the roundabout are almost unheard of.
  • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquietNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:41AM (#36652760) Journal
    While I fear this may be an (emotionally) unpopular assertion here on Slashdot, could it be that pool of U.S. drivers is inherently less-skilled than drivers in many other developed countries? Yes, yes--I know that you (whomever you might be, dear American who is reading this comment right now) are a superb, attentive, alert, efficient, far-above-average driver, but for a moment consider just how stupid and inconsiderate all those other yahoos you have to deal with on the road are.

    The fact is, it's harder to get a driver's license in a lot of other countries. The standards and expectations are higher. In the U.S., I exaggerate only very slightly to suggest that a driver's license (and even automobile ownership) are seen as a fundamental human right, rather than a privilege. Most places, public transit is something that poor people use until they work hard enough to live the American dream (with accompanying house in the 'burbs and two-car garage).

    Many other driving nations impose stricter conditions on new drivers, graduated licensing schemes (which require the passages of time and/or tests before new drivers are allowed greater driving privileges--the use of high-speed highways, driving late at night, driving without another experienced driver, etc. may all be prohibited to new drivers), older minimum driving ages, and more complex driving tests than the United States.

    Despite its abundant roundabouts, the UK enjoys a non-motorway death rate about 15% below that of the U.S. [wikipedia.org] (Their motorway death rate is more than 60% less, but that's pretty much irrelevant to the roundabout issue.) Better public transit also means that people who can't or shouldn't be driving are less tempted to do so.

  • by DontBlameCanada (1325547) on Monday July 04, 2011 @11:41AM (#36652770)

    My first experience with roundabouts was during a vacation to Australia (Brisbane). They are absolutely everywhere and once I'd gotten used to the etiquette in play, I fell in love with them. I drove from Brisbane all the way north to a little resort where we were catching a chart to snorkle the Reef. Traffic never really stops, folks on the roundabout have the right-of-way, but the pace is deliberately slow so that merges on and off and controlled and traffic continues to flow.

    You *cannot* run a red light or miss a traffic signal as the intersection usually has a garden or statue *right in the middle of traffic*. If you are somehow so inattentive or drunk entering the intersection that you miss the big wall in front of you, folks on the roundabout have plenty of time to recognize that you aren't going to stop as you *are* in their field of vision as they travel on the circle. They can either stop or take evasive action as you smash into the concrete barricade. Drivers are empowered and required to remain attentive, even when they have the right-of-way. As you need to make a tight circle while on the traffic circle, you *must* drop speed or you'll never make the turn. Accidents on a traffic circle tend to be low-speed with minor or no injuries.

    A standard traffic light abdicates all responsibility to a device. Vehicles traveling in a straight line through an intersection tend to do so at or above the speed limit - so pedestrian and driver error is frequently catastrophic or fatal. I don't know about others, but I'll take an increase in fender-benders to avoid head-on or t-bone accidents.

    http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/roundabouts.html [iihs.org] has some excellent information about roundabouts. Note in point 5:
          "5 What are the common types of crashes at roundabouts? What can be done to prevent them?

            Despite the demonstrated safety benefits of roundabouts, some crashes still occur. Fewer crashes are typically seen at single-lane roundabouts compared with multilane roundabouts.5

            An Institute study of crashes at 38 roundabouts in Maryland found that four crash types (run-off-road, rear-end, sideswipe, and entering-circulating) accounted for almost all crashes. A common crash type at both single-lane and double-lane roundabouts involved vehicles colliding with the central island. These crashes, which often involved unsafe speeds, accounted for almost half of all single-vehicle run-off-road crashes. Collisions occurred more frequently at entrances to roundabouts rather than within the circulatory roadway or at exits. About three-quarters of the crashes involved property damage. There were no right-angle or head-on collisions, potentially severe crash types that commonly occur at traditional intersections.6

            In the Maryland study, Institute researchers concluded that unsafe speeds were an important crash factor. Some drivers may not have seen the roundabout in time. Measures to alert drivers of the need to reduce speeds (e.g., speed limit signs well in advance of roundabouts) and increase the conspicuity of roundabouts (e.g., larger roundabout ahead signs and YIELD signs, enhanced landscaping of center islands, pavement with reflector markings) may help to reduce crashes at roundabouts. Certain design features such as adequate curvature of approach roads also may aid in reducing speeds."

  • by multimediavt (965608) on Monday July 04, 2011 @12:11PM (#36653152)

    Shoot the Transportation Engineer! that ever came up with the roundabout AND the merging exit and entry lanes on highways (another circle of death)! Yes, on paper, if people ACTUALLY drove by the "Rules of the Road" and "Right of Way"-let alone the actual LAWS that govern vehicular operation in ANY country-they would do all the things they say. BUT, this is yet another classic case of theory v. reality. In theory, given the laws and rules of the road this would work. In reality, people learn stuff about driving to pass a test and then forget it all 15 seconds after they have the driver's license in their hand! People in the U.S. can't handle a four way stop! It's right of way based and they can't even remember those simple rules! SHEESH!

  • Roundabouts are great when drivers actually use them as intended the problem is there are too many rude asshats to make them practical. Here where I live there are 6 of them, I cant count the times that I watch people just whip around them without even looking to see if other cars are coming or if there are other cars already waiting to turn into them. I had a guy plow into me at one last year, he claimed that since he had a yield sign at the entrance that meant I was supposed to stop in the middle of the loop for him...actually made the point to argue that in court when he was issued a ticket. Drivers around here are idiots though, thats why we now have stop lights at freeway on ramps...people were too stupid to realize that if you leave no room for cars to merge into traffic eventually you just create enough congestion that no one can go anywhere.

  • by damburger (981828) on Monday July 04, 2011 @12:59PM (#36653698)

    Just wait until your government figures out they can just paint a big white circle on a junction and call it a 'mini-roundabout' - half the people approaching it treat it as a roundabout, the other half treat it as a junction. Hilarity/death ensues.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Monday July 04, 2011 @01:00PM (#36653706)
    On a motorcycle trip through Boston I entered a 2 lane traffic circle. A woman in the inside lane had her turn signal on and she was ahead so she had right of way. I gave her plenty of room to change lanes. She slowed down, so I slowed down. She slowed down bringing the whole circle nearly to a stop but she would not change lanes. My exit came up so I got off but I'm sure she went round and round that circle till she ran out of gas.

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