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Monday, 6 February 2012

Roundabouts are the future.

It seems that Americans, or at least traffic engineers, are finally embracing roundabouts (or turning circles as Google maps likes to call them). The article I just linked to stresses how much safer they are than other types of intersection but talks about them as if they were something new.

Of course, they are new to many Americans. They may have been around in other places for a long time, but they are quite rare over here. I must admit I was quite pleased when a roundabout was built at a junction near where I live. I found it so much more preferable to the other choices. Unfortunately, I was the only one who seemed to know how to drive around one. They had to put up Give Way signs before entering the roundabout, despite that being the rule. The problem is that most people are used to stop signs and just won't stop if there is not one present. Most junctions are controlled either by traffic lights or by stop signs. Given the grid nature of a lot of American cities, four-way stop signs are very prevalent. A four-way stop means that cars coming from all directions must stop and go in the order in which they arrived. But that's not all for stop signs. They appear even when there is no reason for them to be. They appear on major roads before the junction with minor roads. There is one such near our house where the minor road is just a car park. The traffic on the main road has to stop for the very unlikely occurrence that a car is emerging from the car park. It's a residential road with little traffic and the car park is also residential. There is just no good reason for the junction to be controlled by a stop sign.

So I for one welcome our new roundabout overlords. Long may they prosper.