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Roundabout Revolution Sweeping US

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the how-to-spend-your-stimulus-bribe dept.

Transportation 1173

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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1173 comments

Really bad idea. (4, Interesting)

yog (19073) | about 3 years ago | (#36652362)

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. (3, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#36652404)

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. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Really bad idea. (1, Insightful)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 years ago | (#36652492)

Having moved to Indiana from the far more bike-friendly Minnesota, I have come to the conclusion that bikes are considered to be childrens' toys here. It's really sad. This is the land of the spark plug morons, unfortunately.

Re:Really bad idea. (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 3 years ago | (#36652674)

In my 3rd world country they work better than traffic lights for low to medium traffic (and they are less likely to fail because of lightning etc), but fail worse than traffic lights for congested traffic conditions.

If the drivers in a roundabout can't leave because of a few drivers who want to get out to one congested exit, it can mean the whole roundabout gets stuck so that even vehicles heading for other exits have to wait till the congested exit clears. This is not necessarily true for traffic light junctions - unless the drivers block the intersection when their exit isn't free - most drivers don't so it usually doesn't fail that badly as often (but we have bad drivers so it still fails so we also have cops manning some traffic light junctions during peak hours ;) ), whereas with roundabouts you get in the roundabout and hope for the best. That's why in peak hours some roundabouts end up being controlled by traffic cops in order to make sure they don't get stuck.

So at some congested places roundabouts are being replaced by traffic lights.

Re:Really bad idea. (5, Insightful)

Kokuyo (549451) | about 3 years ago | (#36652424)

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.

Re:Really bad idea. (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about 3 years ago | (#36652466)

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.

Re:Really bad idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652442)

Should i get off your lawn now?

Re:Really bad idea. (2)

morari (1080535) | about 3 years ago | (#36652502)

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 their handling of cars and prediction of flow.

Re:Really bad idea. (2)

tom17 (659054) | about 3 years ago | (#36652630)

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.

Re:Really bad idea. (4, Funny)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Really bad idea. (2)

dotbot (2030980) | about 3 years ago | (#36652594)

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... :)

Re:Really bad idea. (5, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Sweet Lord No (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652386)

Quite possibly the worst traffic control structure ever invented.

We have them in Canada and they cause more bullshit than they solve.

Re:Sweet Lord No (1)

digitrev (989335) | about 3 years ago | (#36652514)

Really? As a native from Ottawa, I've found absolutely no issues whatsoever using roundabouts. So long as the yield directions are set up properly, it's quite useful. Most people know how to use them properly, and I've never seen an accident at one yet. Besides, so long as they're put in the right place, they can definitely speed up traffic.

Re:Sweet Lord No (1)

tom17 (659054) | about 3 years ago | (#36652538)

I disagree. They are the best thing ever when people know how to use them. I have seen some up here in Canada and get all excited when I see them :)

If you want a candidate for worst traffic control structure ever invented, it's the 2 or 4 way stop signs. Utterly horrible. They should all be replaced with mini-roundabouts.

I say YAY to them down there for embracing this and I truly hope they follow suite up here and go roundabout-crazy :)

Wow.... (4, Insightful)

jawtheshark (198669) | about 3 years ago | (#36652400)

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:Wow.... (2, Insightful)

CrackedButter (646746) | about 3 years ago | (#36652440)

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.

Re:Wow.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652494)

You sound like a douche. How about you just die off and we call it even?

Re:Wow.... (0)

CrackedButter (646746) | about 3 years ago | (#36652554)

Bigger douches post as AC.

Re:Wow.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652640)

I'm not a douche :(

Re:Wow.... (2)

jawtheshark (198669) | about 3 years ago | (#36652566)

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.... (0)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 years ago | (#36652570)

when 'spontaneous co-operation and yielding to others' is considered un-American.

Near as I can tell, that assessment was made by the metrosexual editors of this site, not the public in general.

No, we're not very euro-style. You can get shampoo that is, though. Maybe even peel off the "Euro-style" sticker off the shampoo bottle and stick it on the side of your car, if you wish.

Re:Wow.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652598)

Also, it's a ridiculous argument. The rules for using roundabouts are clear and unambiguous (people on the outside _have_ to yield to people inside). It doesn't require "spontaneous co-operation" any more than other road features do (e.g. on intersections, you have to assume people also respect the traffic lights; on roundabouts, you have to assume people know how to transit properly while inside one) and they do work successfully in high traffic flow sites in Europe, so I fail to see why they couldn't work in the US.

To me, it seems the argument boils down to "roundabouts are bad because people in the US don't know how to use roundabouts", which says more about the quality of driving instruction in the US than about the merits and properties of roundabouts.

Re:Wow.... (3, Informative)

berzerke (319205) | about 3 years ago | (#36652672)

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.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652680)

Don't worry though, this generation will die off

Since both worrying and dying off is un-American I wouldn't worry about that anyway.

Re:Wow.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652498)

You realize that was editorializing by the submitter and should have been edited out by timothy right?

Re:Wow.... (2)

jawtheshark (198669) | about 3 years ago | (#36652586)

We're on slashdot, I only read the summary ;-)

Re:Wow.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652560)

And who made that statement? So far, only the poster, who is busy building straw men.

Rt 70 and 73 in NJ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652402)

There was a roundabout there long before 1990. Jersey had many of them prior to 90, and many have been replaced by intersections with lights.

Re:Rt 70 and 73 in NJ (1, Flamebait)

Joce640k (829181) | about 3 years ago | (#36652482)

The USA is just a bunch of NIMBYS. This thread is living proof.

Way before 1990 (2)

dorpus (636554) | about 3 years ago | (#36652406)

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

Re:Way before 1990 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652484)

Yes - there's been at least four in my town as long as I have lived here, which is since 1973.

Re:Way before 1990 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652496)

Washington DC has rotaries [wikipedia.org] , not roundabouts [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Way before 1990 (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 years ago | (#36652522)

As opposed to the rest of the US, which was modeled on Native American cities? Or where?

Washington was a 'planned city' as in central-government designed. The only kind of city that Jefferson wanted to see develop here.

Fortunately, we have a bit more freedom than that, for the most part.

Re:Way before 1990 (1)

iksbob (947407) | about 3 years ago | (#36652534)

Georgetown, DE has a circle at its center that apparently dates back to the same time period.

Re:Way before 1990 (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 3 years ago | (#36652548)

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

No, it doesn't. It has traffic circles, which are larger, higher-speed, and don't work as well. True roundabouts have only existed for about a century.

Germany (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652410)

Roundabouts have been introduced in Germany about 15 years ago and since continously replaced many smaller intersections.
I love them. Driving through them is smooth and they're helpful in unknown territory since you can just circle twice if you're unsure about the right direction.

Cooperation Crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652412)

I fail to see how this requires more cooperation than an all-way stop intersection. In fact, it requires less: Whoever is in the roundabout has the right of way, and you use the indicator when you leave.

Re:Cooperation Crap (2)

crypton (35785) | about 3 years ago | (#36652528)

Exactly. Unfortunately, most Americans don't know or ignore this. The other problem with not knowing the rules are the drivers who stop before entering when they don't need to. New rotaries should be posted with basic signs until they're more common. They recently installed several in my area and they greatly relieved congestion and peak gridlock. The Atlanta area is a prime candidate for rotaries but installation would probably become a Tea Party issue.

Re:Cooperation Crap (5, Funny)

ISoldat53 (977164) | about 3 years ago | (#36652584)

Just think of them as token rings.

Working out well. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652422)

Just got one put in at a university where there's more than one pedestrian death per year.

They replaced a traffic light with a VERY LONG wait, with a roundabout the same size with nearly no wait.

Not too far from me there's a much larger rotary that splits off into four, which is confusing and dangerous.

Lesson? Big rotary = bad, British-style roundabout = good. A roundabout is not much bigger than an intersection.

Oh yeah, and I live in Massachusetts, where we're known as Massholes for our driving.

Cmon /. You can do better WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652426)

I guess the Mods are all out bbq'ing hotdogs and this story slipped through

First in 1990? Really? (2)

Ogive17 (691899) | about 3 years ago | (#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).

Are North Americans really, really shit drivers? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652434)

Are you all "terrified" of roundabouts? Or are you all too stupid/arrogant/self-important to remember "give way to the left"? We have roundabouts everywhere in Britain and I've seen as many accidents with someone slamming into another car at a roundabout as I have someone slamming into another car at lights: one apiece.

I'm really bewildered by the antagonism here.

Also, "will lead to higher taxes". Fucking hell. I know the Tea Party people are fucking insane but I didn't realise they were that batshit.

As for chrb, I think you should have your license removed. Anyone terrified of roundabouts should go back to driving school because you're a fucking menace to the roads, roundabouts or not.

Re:Are North Americans really, really shit drivers (0)

superwiz (655733) | about 3 years ago | (#36652668)

Also, "will lead to higher taxes". Fucking hell. I know the Tea Party people are fucking insane but I didn't realise they were that batshit.

Hmm... I never met a person who self-ascribes tea party membership who is actually psychologically damaged. But I do see a lot of people who claim that Tea Party is insane who themselves foam at the mouth at the first opportunity. Well, you may not be in a good company, but you can always console yourself by the fact that you are in a large company.

since 1990's inaccurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652444)

We had a roundabout in my home town in 80's, and it was fairly old then. Also, I remember seeing other roundabouts in New England area while growing up. Roundabouts have been in the US much longer than since the 1990's.

Here be dragons and roundabouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652446)

If its good foro the rest of the world then it can not be for USA, right?
Or am I missing something?

I love roundabouts in low traffic areas (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 3 years ago | (#36652448)

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.

Re:I love roundabouts in low traffic areas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652616)

British motorway junctions work off giant roundabouts for the on/off ramps in both directions, the bigger ones have lights which only go on during peak hours. They work just fine.

Curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652450)

Supporters claim that roundabouts result in ... reductions in ... accidents. Critics say that roundabouts ... lead to ... accidents

Re:Curious (2)

Trarman (1607209) | about 3 years ago | (#36652546)

I've heard the argument that while roundabouts may increase the number of accidents, those accidents are less severe than the same intersection with lights.

About time too (5, Insightful)

Stormthirst (66538) | about 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:About time too (1)

Lust (14189) | about 3 years ago | (#36652530)

It will also make North Americans better prepared to drive in Europe. Win-win.

Re:About time too (5, Funny)

imadork (226897) | about 3 years ago | (#36652614)

We Americans are great drivers! We don't need to "prepare" to drive in Europe at all. But tell me, what's that extra pedal for?

Roundabouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652454)

The biggest criticisms seem to be user error.

I'm Canadian, and have only experienced roundabouts in the last 5 years or so. I now live in a subdivision with roundabouts at both ends.

If the drivers know how to drive in them, they're great.
If the drivers cautiously try to use them, they're okay.

If the drivers don't know what they're doing and drive through them with careless disregard, they're dangerous.

I've seen people go the wrong way, and almost nobody signals correctly, but that's no different than normal driving. Passing on the wrong side, running lights, driving on the wrong side of the road, ignoring inconvenient no turning signs, drivers ignoring the laws are a danger, roundabouts or not.

Re:Roundabouts (2)

apdyck (1010443) | about 3 years ago | (#36652540)

I personally love roundabouts. As long as people signal and drive carefully (read: Properly) they are quite safe. Also they can help avoid clusterf*cks like http://wikimapia.org/1698209/Simms-Corner [wikimapia.org] which is one of the most dangerous intersections I've ever had the pleasure of driving through.

Higher Taxes? (5, Insightful)

ajo_arctus (1215290) | about 3 years ago | (#36652456)

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.

Re:Higher Taxes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652596)

In the immortal words of John Cleese:

"We seem to manage. But then our cars have steering wheels."

Re:Higher Taxes? (2)

Stormthirst (66538) | about 3 years ago | (#36652624)

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.

Re:Higher Taxes? (1)

Digicrat (973598) | about 3 years ago | (#36652662)

Roundabouts likely have a significantly higher cost for initial installation (over stop signs), but at the same time cost a lot less (maintenance,electricity) than traffic lights. So, if their used properly, it really shouldn't be a net difference in costs to the taxpayer, or if anything a long-term savings.

For busy intersections, their usage can be a bit tricky. In general though, their great, as long as drivers know how to use them. Unfortunately, too many US drivers not only don't understand the usage of a roundabout, but don't even grasp the concept of a "Yield" sign . .

Simpletons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652460)

If you're "confused" or "scared" by roundabouts, you're obviously too retarded to be behind the wheel anyway.

All the near accidents...? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652474)

"All the near accidents"
Seriously?
Can't you guys drive over there? If you can't drive through a roundabout you shouldn't get a license, it's totally comfortable and way more calm than thousands of red lights. And that "Un-American" argument just leaves me speechless.
I'm German and IMO roundabouts are the best thing coming from the Brits since... basically forever.

Re:All the near accidents...? (2)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 3 years ago | (#36652670)

The problem here is that there's no real alternative to driving for most of the US, to the point that it can literally be drive or die of starvation.

So, they hand out driver's licenses like candy, and even when they take them away, people just drive illegally.

about time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652486)

well its about time.. :-)
i renember we got our first roundabout in hamilton (ontario, canada) about a decade ago.

as for the critics - i don't get it - are they saying the average american is too stupid to figure out something qw basic as learning to drive thrrough a roundabout??

jp (from canada)

Not so dangerous (1)

Woogiemonger (628172) | about 3 years ago | (#36652488)

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 court for revenue.

They work well with experience (1)

Aged Cynic (244529) | about 3 years ago | (#36652518)

I live in an area where many intersections are being circled.

The immediate result is that those unfamiliar with them panic and stop inappropriately. Once the regular users of these intersections grow accustomed to the new flow pattern, throughput is greatly improved.

IMHO, the short-term pain is more than offset by the long-term gain.

Shouldn't this be "idle"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652520)

Shouldn't this be "idle"?

Pedestrian problems? (4, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Pedestrian problems? (4, Informative)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 3 years ago | (#36652648)

Zebra crossing.

If you are unsure and fear runabouts (1)

future assassin (639396) | about 3 years ago | (#36652526)

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.

Re:If you are unsure and fear runabouts (1)

hawkbat05 (1952326) | about 3 years ago | (#36652580)

These are getting popular in Canadian cities as well. I don't know about in the US but there is nothing in the driving handbooks put out by our Ministry of Transportation on proper use of them, so many people are unsure and just "wing it". Years after the city I'm in started installing them the city finally took upon themselves to educate the public with pamphlets sent to every house.

welcome to the 20th Century, America! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652532)

This is the sort of thing you'll need to get used to:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Roundabout_%28Swindon%29

Higher taxes? (1)

Malc (1751) | about 3 years ago | (#36652536)

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?

Re:Higher taxes? (1)

biometrizilla (1999728) | about 3 years ago | (#36652654)

Fewer traffic lights = Fewer traffic tickets Fewer traffic tickets = Less revenue for municipality Less revenue for municipality = Higher taxes needed to replace traffic ticket revenue Weak connection at best

Unify the rules and they are simple and usable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652542)

Give way to traffic where indicated on the road (In the UK we have dashed lines).
If the roundabout is just a single circle this simplified down to "Traffic on the roundabout always has priority".
Though if you need something complex like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Roundabout_(Swindon)
then you need to pay attention to the road markings.

UnAmerican? (5, Insightful)

tbannist (230135) | about 3 years ago | (#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...

Good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652550)

A friend of mine is a traffic engineer who did his final thesis on roundabouts and traffic circles, and he said they absolutely improve flow and reduce the number of accidents compared to other types of intersections. When they're installed there's always an adjustment period as people get used to them, and there may be more accidents at first, but over the long haul the accident rate drops dramatically.

What about the cyclists pedestrians? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652564)

Roundabouts are crazy dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Try needing to go left on a two lane roundabout when you are on a bike and you'll see. Hopefully they are just a fad.

Been here in Ottawa a long time (1)

LazyBoyWrangler (760913) | about 3 years ago | (#36652572)

Roundabouts exist here in Canada and they've been on the increase. Traffic is generally much faster during non-peak periods, but it can get stalled during peak periods if the majority of traffic is coming from one direction. Once a flow is established, it is hard for other entrances to break into the stream, as people on the circle have the right of way to entrants. In tourist areas circles give the buses a place to turn around without the usual trouble. These things really work well when not placed in a major commuter route. I'd much rather travel around in a city with circles than stop lights. And the center creates a focal place for flowers and general beautification not found in city center intersections. My suburb (Orleans) looks much nicer with the traffic lights removed and circles in their place.

Not new and Not good (1)

assertation (1255714) | about 3 years ago | (#36652576)

"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.

Left/Right hand side (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652578)

"British-style roundabout"? I can see how that would be confusing in country with right-hand traffic

Roundabouts- good, sometimes (2)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | about 3 years ago | (#36652588)

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.

sinister plot (1, Funny)

sribe (304414) | about 3 years ago | (#36652590)

...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.

One thing I've noticed about roundabout (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652600)

In and around the lake, mountains come out of the sky and they stand there.

Oh come on (1)

Guillaume le Btard (1773300) | about 3 years ago | (#36652602)

You people can't drive stick, and now not even navigate a simple roundabout. jeeez

Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652606)

So proponents are happy that roundabouts reduce "both the severity and incidence of accidents," yet critics claim they lead to more accidents.

Well, which is it?

Carmel (2)

stokessd (89903) | about 3 years ago | (#36652618)

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

how rich (1)

superwiz (655733) | about 3 years ago | (#36652632)

BBC gets snide about Americans on the 4th July. Eat your pudding

Good for replacing 4 way stops (1)

Stone316 (629009) | about 3 years ago | (#36652634)

I am not a fan of roundabouts replacing lights but in my area 2 of them replaced 4 way stops. I hate 4/3 way stops with a passion, unless its a school/park zone where you want to force people to slow down.

I have to say tho, they have worked out really well. I have seen some close calls and thats mainly caused by people not yielding as they enter the roundabout trying to push it and squeeze in. Hasn't been too much of a problem for me since I bought my Dodge Ram truck tho.

Check the road fatalities per 100k vehicles (4, Informative)

Aceticon (140883) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

Roundabouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652646)

This is just another step towards the NWO and globalization. Spontaneous driver cooperation... What's next, a globally consistent system of measurement being forced down our throats and roads?! I will drive 100 down our arrow straight highways and four way intersections, but I'll be damned if it's going to be measured in KPH!

Even in Europe.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652652)

When I was driving in Europe, even after being very used to them, they were catastrophes. Here, all they do is eliminate a couple of stop signs. In nearly every one I've had the displeasure of using, you still had to stop to get into the traffic. Lame idea at the very least.

Great idea, but improve driver training (1)

Noer (85363) | about 3 years ago | (#36652656)

Rotaries are nothing new here in Massachusetts, but out-of-state drivers tend to do stupid things like stopping in the middle. Like with most other issues on the road, the issue is that driver training in the US is completely inadequate. If we actually trained drivers adequately — like in Germany or Finland — crashes would decrease, both on rotaries (which are more fuel-efficient than traffic lights, at least for low to moderate volume traffic) and elsewhere. That drivers are as distracted as they are, despite really poor car-control skills, is a deadly combination.

Smarter, more traffic-aware traffic lights would also be an improvement.

Roundabouts are much safer (4, Informative)

vijayiyer (728590) | about 3 years ago | (#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.

about time (1)

johnrpenner (40054) | about 3 years ago | (#36652664)

its about time. i remember when we got our first roundabout here in hamilton (ontario, canada).

as for the critics - i don't get it - are they saying americans are too stupid to figure out something as basic as a roundabout??

2cents from toronto
j

Not new in Boston (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652666)

At least as far as anyone can remember they have been in the Boston area - not sure that we should be trusting Wikipedia here. Traveling through them every day, I find them to be a much better solution than traffic lights or stop signs. I would be interested to know where the ideas about taxes come from and wonder if there is any data about accident rates. I still prefer the British "roundabout" to the Bostonian "rotary."

Worst of both worlds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36652678)

China does large roundabouts with traffic lights. :\

Roundabouts are great (1)

smartin (942) | about 3 years ago | (#36652682)

Every time I've driven in the UK and Australia I've been amazed by what a great idea they are. Traffic flows through them so much better than at a light and they must save a ton of gas.

I really hope that this catches on.

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