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The roundabout is a sight all too common in Europe and other parts of the world. In fact, according to this article on the Economist, Britain has 10,000, Australia 15,000 and France 20,000. Here in the United States, we have about 1,000 of the modern style roundabout's, as opposed to so-called "traffic circles" which are not as efficient and allow pedestrian traffic. The U.S. adds about 150 to 250 new roundabouts a year. The benefits are hard to overlook, with safety standing out loud and clear: "A 2001 study by the IIHS found that roundabouts have 80% fewer crashes with injuries than ordinary intersections." Of course, readers here at AutoblogGreen will also be glad to hear that roundabouts also save gas by not forcing cars to sit still at red lights waiting for their turn to go, which also has the benefit of saving time.

With Nascar being such a popular part of American culture, you'd think that drivers would feel at ease only turning left, no?

[Source: The Economist]



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  • 11 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Roundabouts do not work well when they have many lanes. Two is pretty much the maximum. If you don't believe me, try driving around the Arc de Triomphe if you're ever in Paris.

      As far as land use goes, that depends on how you define "use". With a small roundabout, the circular patch in the middle can only be used for a flower bed and perhaps a fountain or else, a tree. This helps to pretty up the neighborhood, an important consideration for real estate values.

      Larger roundabouts permit the construction of a structure in the center, accessed via bridges or underground tunnels. Unfortunately, these opportunities are only very rarely exploited. This appears to be mostly a failure of imagination.

      Taking this to the extreme, you could build an entire town consisting whose primary transport infrastructure consists entirely of six-sided ring roads, with each straight stretch a few hundred yards long. A honeycomb of giant roundabouts, if you will. Depending on local traffic volume, the three-way intersections at the corners would be served by small, regular roundabouts, double-decker roundabouts (one of each driving direction) or else, flyover structures. On- and off-ramps for accessing the individual enclosed districts would be located along the straight sections.

      Other than not having any traffic lights or stop signs anywhere, there are a number of other advantages. First, as in a rectangular grid, you have redundancy so traffic can be routed around accident and construction sites. Second, and perhaps more importantly, each district is inherently nearly circular, i.e. it has a natural center which serves as its economic and cultural anchor point.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Here in the US driver training is such a joke that adding these will initally cause confusion, which I have witnessed first hand. That said, I prefer them to regular intersections.
      • 7 Years Ago
      my community has just been round-about-ed and it took some time to get used to but I like it. they were added to slow down traffic going by a school and a huge government lab. i think in this case they were put in to deter terrorism.


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      • 7 Years Ago
      The thing about roundabouts is that you don't have to stop. Think about all the local governments that use traffic tickets as a source of revenue. All the traffic cops that will have to find other work to do. Oh dear oh dear....

      The other thing is that not needing to stop requires the ability to judge relative speeds of other traffic, something that the average person driving a car in the US does not need since stop signs remove all need for that skill. Still, once acquired it should improve the skill level of the average motorist on US road. Now that just leaves Canada - or is Mexico just as backward as well?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Technically, the circle around the Arc de Triomphe is not a roundabout. It's just a circle.

      Roundabouts sure as hell beats a 4-way intersection, but in the States I've seen a number of people actually stop once they are inside. But worst of all, people here are notorious for not signaling when exiting. How about selling your giant Ford truck and buying some courtesy! They work great 99% of the time.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Perhaps you meant turning to the right?
      I'm just back from Scandinavia, where even they went to the right on right-side-drive countries, correct? I think NASCAR goes clockwise - or do they flip the film image in left-side countries so you don't feel funny?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Here in Modesto, there were two roundabouts installed recently. While there were a few complaints, they work very well where installed.

      They work best where there is low to medium traffic, and can reduce the number of stops. Please note that sometimes you have to stop for traffic already in the roundabout.

      There are only two problems:
      1) it takes more land than a standard intersection, and
      2) they may cause problems if the traffic flow is extremely high.
      • 7 Years Ago
      You don't turn left in a traffic circle in the US. That would bring the IIHS safety numbers down quite quickly.

      I prefer circles to lighted intersections anytime, go through one nearly every day, and it's the only intersection in that urban area that's not backed up.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree with those above: initially I hated the concept of a roundabout but after driving in england for a week, I loved them. It does take a little while to get used to merging with circling traffic but once I did, I found it much more fun than sitting at a traffic light and twiddling my thumbs. Too bad we didn't jump on the roundabout bandwagon 70 years ago; it's probably too late for most urban areas to convert here in the States.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I drove a few thousand miles on a trip to Europe last year and at first I really didn’t like “roundabouts” at first but after a day or so I found that they are really more efficient because I rarely had to stop. The only time that they were not as efficient is in Italy when they were about 0.5km in diameter (most others were about 0.1km) and had too many intersections. Those large circles were under some autostrasses and would get clogged because almost everyone wanted to take one exit to get onto the autostrasse. But then again, generally the freeway design in Italy was very confusing. I think that once we get enough in the US so that enough people see the advantages it will be like a national epiphany and we will start to see them pop up everywhere.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It doesn't make sense to call roundabouts "all too common" when, as you quote, "A 2001 study by the IIHS found that roundabouts have 80% fewer crashes with injuries than ordinary intersections."

      It would make some sense to say that roundabouts are all too rare a sight in the US.