A Roundabout Way of Doing Things
Replies: 75 - Last Post: Aug 8, 2012 3:19 PM Last Post By: tiredandretired
Aug 2, 2012 5:18 AM
A Roundabout Way of Doing ThingsTravel related ... it's about driving LA to San Francisco (sort of).
I was glancing through the Lomboc Record (the things I do to stay right on top of hot topics in the US), and a short editorial caught my eye - a columnist railing against the building of a roundabout on a major intersection in the central Californian coast area (Hwy 246 and Hwy 154, to be precise). End of the world as we know it ... and more.
The writer said this: "Now ... we will also admit that roundabouts can be an effective, efficient way to move traffic. Their major flaw seems to be that U.S. drivers are not accustomed to them, and we all know that Americans aren’t keen about accepting things we don’t fully understand." This is breathtaking logic - how on earth do you become accustomed to something without being introduced to them and practise on them?
Even in my quiet leafy corner of Melbourne, I could probably walk to about 50 roundabouts in 30 minutes ... they are such a part of the vehicular landscape that intersections look positively naked and dangerous without one. I urge all patriotic Americans to embrace these new-fangled traffic-management devices ... they really do work well - trust me, I'm an Australian.
Have a nice day!
Aug 2, 2012 5:46 AM
1I have several roundabouts near my home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They are safe when there is not much traffic on either street; however, if one/or both street is a main artery with lots of traffic, it is difficult for the next street's cars to "jump in" unless the other car does stop.
Aug 2, 2012 5:51 AM
Aug 2, 2012 5:54 AM
Aug 2, 2012 6:17 AM
Aug 2, 2012 6:59 AM
5Just back from Europe. The have even dumped the cloverleaf interchanges on freeways for ag system that dumps you into one or more roundabouts!
Aug 2, 2012 7:19 AM
6They've been multiplying around here. I have to say it's cut down on a lot of back ups at what used to be a 4 way stop. They do take some getting used to. About a week after the first one opened in my parent's town there were tire tracks that went straight through the middle and I've heard of a couple of stories about people going the wrong way, rather than going 3/4 around the right way. Unfortunately a lot of people think that tey can go through them at the same speed as the road leading up to them, and not the 15 mph that is posted.
Aug 2, 2012 9:07 AM
7There are loads of 'em around xDC, though the local lore is that L'Enfant planned them to confuse invaders. They shone recently, when a major storm knocked out traffic lights at many other intersections. Since we'd better get used to weird weather, maybe we'd better get used to roundabouts (usually called "traffic circles" here) as well.
Aug 2, 2012 9:07 AM
Aug 2, 2012 9:14 AM
9Lots and lots and lots of them in Bend, Oregon. I have a love-hate relationship with them and have finally worked up the courage to ride my bike through roundabouts.
The thing that gets me is when I see an out-of-state plate I know the driver is going to struggle through the roundabout, making it hard on everyone. And given how many out-of-staters come here to visit, it happens frequently.
But I do like how they keep traffic flowing and in parts of town there are no stop signs or stop lights.
Aug 2, 2012 11:44 AM
10I'm with #3 zelasdad. We have a few of them in the Minneapolis metro / suburbs and I detest them. Especially the one that changed a 4-lane road between two major shopping areas into an inefficient (although beautifullly landscaped) 2-lane road with 3 single-lane roundabouts within a 6-block stretch. I've seen a car come through one of those at speed, driving up onto the bricked center area to dodge the car ahead of it that was exiting to the right. And don't get me started on the hazards caused by snowbanks along that stretch for at least portions of 5 months a year.
Aug 2, 2012 3:04 PM
11... the local lore is that L'Enfant planned them to confuse invaders.
French* designers of national capitals must have a thing for roundabouts ... Parliament House in Canberra is situated inside not one but two large ones.
And the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is inside an extremely crazy one as well. See here
*Canberra was actually designed by an American (Walter Burley Griffin), although a lot of the credit really must go to his wife, since he was a bit chaotic in his work habits. The Burley Griffins were much influenced by Froggy circular road systems.
Aug 2, 2012 5:45 PM
12The first one I remember driving in was in Cancun in '84 I think, it is/was huge with 4 or 5 busy streets and extra exits and entrys scattered about. Buses, trucks, handcarts and peds all mixing it up with cars and motorcycles. LOL! What struck me though was how well it worked as long as you go with the flow. There are more and more around now and I LOVE them. Stop signs and lights are such a waste.
Aug 2, 2012 6:03 PM
13How can anyone pout about a roundabout when the alternative is idling forever in traffic while a series of left turn lights, red lights, and orange lights that people try to run with fatal consequences create delay and mayhem?
I had to get oriented to roundabouts in New Zealand, where besides having their heads pointed downward the people have a bizarre "yield to right turners" rule, and insist on driving on the wrong side of the road, and it still required only about a half-hour to get the hang of them.
Granted, they aren't fool proof, as the fact that most of the objections posted here relate to problems created by brain-dead speeders indicates. But if Kiwis, who believe they're speaking English when they order "fushnchups", can master roundabouts, and Aussies actually enjoy them, surely Americans could grasp them with practice as well. Of course, it does require a co-operative attitude, which Fox News would call communism.
And if you have doubts about the Aussie OP, relax. You can trust me. I'm a Canadian.
Aug 2, 2012 7:12 PM
14Americans do have a certain amount of resistance to anything new, including roundabouts--no denying this obvious truth, even if convincing evidence weren't posted above.
Roundabouts work well. Even in the hands of stubbornly ignorant Americans, they lessen the severity of accidents compared to unregulated intersections and traffic-lights when designed appropriately. That's one reason they're so popular these days. People in roundabouts have fender benders, while at other intersections they t-bone each other with astonishing regularity, causing serious injuries and deaths at a higher rate. Simple stats.
This doesn't mean people don't find ways to blow it completely when confronted with them, and it doesn't mean they're always the appropriate choice by traffic engineers. It does mean they're here to stay, and all the railing and ranting summoned on the subject won't make them go away.
What's more, when properly implemented (as they usually are in Europe, for example), they're far, far more efficient in terms of moving lots of traffic through busy intersections. Just because the good people of Santa Fe can't figure out how to make this happen doesn't mean the roundabouts themselves are at fault. To confirm this, merely let someone else drive you down a busy 2 or 4-lane local road in, say, France, where you'll notice traffic converging from all directions at endless strings of roundabouts, sorting themselves out and carrying on without ever stopping. Driving this was is way more fun than coming to a standstill every block and wondering how many cars will run each changing of the lights before you can proceed.
Caveat: sometimes they're badly designed, badly executed, badly whatever-you-can-name. But not as often as doubters would have you think.
Now can we talk about the metric system?
Mark (a permanent American, with all the pigheadedness this implies)
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