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Not In My Town: America’s Resistance to the Roundabout


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Not In My Town: America’s Resistance to the Roundabout

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2010

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I want to be upfront about something: I'm not an American, I'm an Australian. And as such, I don't really understand NASCAR or baseball, and my daily driver is from a country that the Americans were at war with seventy years ago. Heck, I sometimes even eat croissants.

So what gives me the right to chide American drivers for resisting such a basic piece of road design as the humble roundabout? Well, that's simple: in Australia we've been using roundabouts for years.

The New York Times reports that, for some oddball reason (probably because the French are so fond of them), Americans are actively resisting the introduction of the roundabout across their great, proud nation. This comes despite the fact that roundabouts have long proven to be safer, more efficient and better for the environment than that other piece of road design: the intersection.

Eugene R. Russell Sr, a civil engineering professor at Kansas State and the chairman of a national task force on roundabouts, elaborates:

"There's a lot of what I call irrational opposition. People don't understand. They just don't understand roundabouts."

What's to understand? It's a big concrete circle that you drive around counter-clockwise, turning off on the exit that you want. If you're turning left or making a U-turn, you keep to the inside lane, if you're turning right, you keep to the outside lane. You give way to the left like you would at an intersection, and to any vehicles already transversing the roundabout. That's it.

So why don't Americans like roundabouts?

Well, there are a few potential reasons. First, there's the resistance to change: intersections have been a staple of American towns for at least sixty years. There's also some confusion between what a roundabout actually is: traffic circles, like Dupont Circle in Washington D.C., are not roundabouts. Roundabouts are typically smaller, traffic moves more slowly and do not feature traffic lights.

There are, however, signs that attitudes are changing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety interviewed 1,802 drivers across six communities and found that just 34% support roundabouts before construction, but that this generally increases to 57% shortly after construction was finished and 69% after more than a year had passed.

There are roughly 2,000 roundabouts across the United States, most of which were built in the last ten years according to Edward Myers, the senior principal at transport engineering firm Kittelson and Associates. Hundreds more are planned for the immediate future, so it seems American drivers will have no choice but to go accustomed to, and learn how to use, these rotary roadways.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeVWPvRFDi4&feature=player_embedded

LINK:

http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2010/11/not-in-my-town-americas-resistance-to.html

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We call them rotoaries up here and I hate them with a passion. There's one in Methuen which has been the scene of many accidents, including mine. Over the years they've made many attempts to change the layout but with little success. Apparently its eventually going to be replaced. Chelmsford had a big one that was so bad it was converted into having stop lights.

When there's not a lot of traffic using them, like in Gardner, they're fine. But once you add multiple lanes and lots of traffic, its a nightmare.

On particularly hateful "roundabout" is a small one in Lawrence. It has 5 roads connecting to it, and it's little more than an intersection with a car sized island in the middle. Lots of accidents there.

I would probably hate them less if people knew what the f@#k a Yield sign means and actually followed the rules of the road. But until people actually get smarter, or more likely, self-driving cars become viable, this will never happen.

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dodge fan.. sounds like you don't hate them, you hate other drivers using them. aka, our driving tests are too lax.

You can't fix stupid, but well designed intersections are far less troublesome in my experience: that is to say ones with dedicated left turning lanes and signal arrows, and sensored lights.

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I think the problem with them happens to be more with the relative scarcity of them in the U.S. compared with other countries. You're right that people don't know how to use them... but I don't seem to have that same problem when I'm in the EU.

That said. I grew up next to one of the worst traffic circled I have ever encountered. The Whitehorse circle isn't just a circle.... it's a circle with a major highway running through the center of it. Rt. 206 comes up from the south and bears west inside the circle itself instead of routing traffic around the outside loop like a normal circle would. For extra fun, they planted telephone poles in the center islands.... frequently people would make turn into the oncoming traffic lane, swerve once they realize what they were doing and then smack into the pole. We could hear the collisions from my house.

Here is the aerial view from google maps.

Interesting side note: The house I grew up in is visible in this shot.

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I think the problem with them happens to be more with the relative scarcity of them in the U.S. compared with other countries. You're right that people don't know how to use them... but I don't seem to have that same problem when I'm in the EU.

That said. I grew up next to one of the worst traffic circled I have ever encountered. The Whitehorse circle isn't just a circle.... it's a circle with a major highway running through the center of it. Rt. 206 comes up from the south and bears west inside the circle itself instead of routing traffic around the outside loop like a normal circle would. For extra fun, they planted telephone poles in the center islands.... frequently people would make turn into the oncoming traffic lane, swerve once they realize what they were doing and then smack into the pole. We could hear the collisions from my house.

Here is the aerial view from google maps.

Interesting side note: The house I grew up in is visible in this shot.

Driven thought that many times.

NJ has a full-on war against circles. And many have disappeared. They used to be quite common here, so scarcity is not really the problem. The problem is that we get a lot of out-of-state people who've never seen them. A worse problem, however is simply that NJ traffic law was quite vague about who had the rightaway for circles... once they put up Yield signs, accidents at many circles went WAY down.

I will miss the circle.

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It's pretty well-documented that roundabouts are opposed by roughly 67% of residents prior to construction, but are embraced by 75% following construction. It's just a lack of familiarity. Carmel, IN has put a $h!-ton in, including several new roundabout interchanges as part of a grade separation project for Keystone Parkway (formerly Avenue) like this one at 126th St.

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There are two within a couple of miles of me which I use often.

They are actually laid out pretty well (in stark contrast to the free-for-all circles NJ had not so long ago).

But it only takes one bonehead to ruin the whole thing.

They really do tend to suck in heavy traffic situations. Once a driver finds his/her self in the wrong lane and can't move to the other, it all becomes a big, round, pile of fail.

I can't say that I see them as having anything beyond a limited usefulness.

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They're starting to seriously put them in here, not generally at major intersections, but you do see them at the entrance to new communities. There's one here that is HUGE and has five exits, it's a pain in the ass since nobody freaking knows how to use one. In some of the affluent older and inner-city communities they're being put in as traffic abatement measures.

Edited by vonVeezelsnider
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I think the problem with them happens to be more with the relative scarcity of them in the U.S. compared with other countries. You're right that people don't know how to use them... but I don't seem to have that same problem when I'm in the EU.

That said. I grew up next to one of the worst traffic circled I have ever encountered. The Whitehorse circle isn't just a circle.... it's a circle with a major highway running through the center of it. Rt. 206 comes up from the south and bears west inside the circle itself instead of routing traffic around the outside loop like a normal circle would. For extra fun, they planted telephone poles in the center islands.... frequently people would make turn into the oncoming traffic lane, swerve once they realize what they were doing and then smack into the pole. We could hear the collisions from my house.

Here is the aerial view from google maps.

Interesting side note: The house I grew up in is visible in this shot.

That has to be one of the worst pieces of road design I've ever seen.

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I've never had problems w/ traffic circles/rotaries/roundabouts....there are very few out here, the only one I know of was built in the last couple of years at a new freeway intersection up in the North Valley on I-17.

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Modern roundabouts work great in the right application and with the right design. The problem with acceptance is that there are a lot of old-style high-speed rotaries, and thus a misunderstanding of what a roundabout is, as well as poorly designed modern roundabouts. There are too many positives of roundabouts not to consider them--reduced delay, fuel consumption, and emissions, lower maintenance costs, and most important of all, a drastically reduced injury accident rate over two-way stops and signalized intersections, and almost no fatal accidents. Multi-lane roundabouts can be confusing, so it's best for roundabouts to be introduced in a community with single lanes, and a properly designed roundabout will make it difficult to travel more than 25 mph in it.

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and a properly designed roundabout will make it difficult to travel more than 25 mph in it.

my town has one close to a hospital.. used to have a raise brick area so cars couldn't go around it faster than say... 20. big trucks slowly, demolished, the brick area, only way for the to get around it, they black topped it to the brick level... pretty easy to go 25 to 30 if you're not going left or right...

the link

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I have a few issues with circles. 1. they don't work in high traffic areas. Most of them in NJ simply have too much traffic to be able to deal with it - which is more of an issue of everyone needing to be first, instead of working together and MERGING! 2. a lot of the new ones that I've been through with my tractor/trailer are not big enough for a tractor/trailer to clear without curbing the inside trailer tires. There is one in Greenwich, NY that I can't make it around without getting the inside trailer tire up on the curb. There are a few in Maryland that I've been on lately that are banked to the outside, which is another problem for my truck. I have to go so slow around it, to make sure that my trailer stays on the wheels and doesn't flip over, that I hold up traffic, because in those, I have to take up both lanes in order to make it around.

If we are going to be getting more of them, they need to be wide enough to accommodate all vehicles, and people need to somehow be trained in how they work!

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