Why roundabouts?And how do they work?Well, in a roundabout way…I will try to explain.
Roundabouts (also called Traffic Circles) were developed by the UK in the mid twentieth century.“Foreign” to some here in the U.S., I have people ask me what’s the point and how do they work.The “point” is, a normal intersection has a total of 32 conflict points.A roundabout reduces those conflict points by 75%!!As a roundabout only has 8 possible conflict points. Absolutely brilliant, those Brits!
A typical roundabout is an intersection without signals, with a circular central island (generally very pretty and all dolled-up with a fountain or statue right in the center to totally distract you) and a circular road around the island.The way it works, vehicles entering the roundabout yield to vehicles already on the roundabout.It works just ducky…as they say in the UK.
Crashes at roundabouts are less severe than crashes at normal intersections.This is because they not only eliminate the need for someone to turn in front of a possible oncoming car who has misjudged their right of way (or their turn), but they also eliminate altogether the possibility of a crash caused by someone who has run a red light or stop sign. Thus also reducing stress, road rage, increase in insurance rates…oh, and Valium intake.
Another good use of roundabouts is to cut down on the cut-through traffic in residential neighborhoods.Also, an Arizona study shows that, in a modern roundabout, there would be a 90% reduction in fatal crashes. A 75% reduction in injury crashes.A 30% to 40% reduction in pedestrians being struck by a car (i.e. Your child walking home from school.I mean, if they did.None do now. But, back in the day, we walked to school and back every day.When I told my daughter this, she replied “Didn’t Grandma and Grandpa love you?…good point”).In addition, there would be a 10% reduction in bicycle crashes.And a 30% to 50% increase in traffic capacity…thereby enhancing traffic flow.Modern roundabouts reduce entry speed, which helps smooth out the flow of traffic.Traffic flows in one circular direction at a low speed of typically less than 25mph.
And with fuel at an all-time high, you will be happy to know, that, unlike an intersection, there is no idling in a roundabout since you are not waiting for a light to change.No stops and starts like you would have at an intersection where you would find yourself wasting fuel. With the flow of traffic at a continuance, this also saves us time (and time is money, right?).
So, there you go.There are numerous reasons why roundabouts are an excellent design idea.Other than the pretty flowers in the middle.So, don’t stop and smell the roses… just cruise around them…
Until next week….
(Daun Thompson is a comedienne, writer and artist residing in Dallas, Texas)