TWO CENTS ON ROUNDABOUTS

Pro-roundabout residents in Canada argue that collisions occur at roundabouts because people don’t know how to use them – this article is trying to prove that logic wrong:

WATERLOO – “People drove more often through more roundabouts in 2011 – and yet they continued to collide at the same high pace. This suggests no progress on a learning curve uncerway since 2004 when roundabouts were first installed.”

Retrieved from: http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/804446

I don’t think that roundabouts are a band-aid solution to every problematic intersection, but I do still think that, if warranted, a roundabout’s engineering is not usually the cause for collisions – lack of education is. If collisions continue to occur at roundabouts, it’s because people are so frustrated with them that they have become stubborn and refuse to understand. They accrue bad habits and stick to them.

Hopefully roundabout education and testing is being incorporated into new generations of drivers to build a safer attitude towards using roundabouts for the future. I think that if everyone understands how to use one, and more importantly, that they are built for more than just drivers (respect for multimodal transportation is way behind on awareness), the mentality can often surpass the safety of a poorly engineered roundabout.

For example, I’m not an experienced transportation planner, nor am I a roundabout engineer, but I do know that the roundabouts in Square One must be poorly engineered. I make this assumption because even when I deliberately go out of my way to check for cyclists and pedestrians in all directions at all times, and pay close attention to the number and speed of vehicles approaching and using the roundabout, and try really hard to make a safe decision for when it’s my turn to enter the roundabout, I still feel like a possible collision may be out of my control. I feel anxious, worried, and uncertain. This is mainly because the approach is not clear enough, there is a lack of visibility, and the size of the roundabout is so small that it’s over before you know it. A secondary reason is because the driving attitude in Mississauga is rough and cocky, meaning that if you want to be safe you actually need to expect people to drive too fast and to be assholes about it in order to seize the opportunity to foresee an accident.

So yes, roundabouts can be poorly engineered. And yes, those roundabouts can entice collisions to occur. But a warranted, well planned and engineered roundabout can be extremely beneficial for optimizing traffic flow and safety. That is, only if these two things change:

  1. All roundabout users must fully understand how to use a roundabout;
  2. Everyone must accept that roads are for everyone (drivers, but also pedestrians and cyclists), and must learn to respect each mode equally (working towards a complete streets mentality).

In the mean time, here is an informative video by the MTO for how to use a roundabout:

http://youtu.be/lbC3CAa-8vA

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4 thoughts on “TWO CENTS ON ROUNDABOUTS

  1. Duane Lindner says:

    I’ve worked on a lot of roundabout designs and built a good number of them. They design is not intuitive, it takes some pretty tricky analysis with fancy software to get it right.

    As a designer, I tend to drive them aggressively – to prove to myself (and others) how good they work. That said, I recently came to a conclusion – when driving in a roundabout, one must accept that a near miss is an ok thing.

    Part of the reason why roundabouts work so well is that most of the interactions (vehicles and pedestrians) are at low speeds. This allows for you to see others and make instantaneous changes is course or speed (including slamming on your brakes to avoid hitting someone). Typically, when we have to dodge or brake to avoid hitting someone in our way, our response is that the other person is an idiot!! We too often blame all the other drivers or pedestrians from being in our God-given way.

    In a roundabout, we must learn that these near misses are ok, and not get frazzled by them. If we did not collide, then we had success. Because the roundabouts have slow movements, we are able to react, adjust and avoid collisions. We are also able to make eye contact with each other, which unfortunately can also result in further ‘road rage’.

    The point is, roundabouts are safe. Sometimes they don’t feel that way, but they are safe and if we drive them alertly and with tolerance for “idiots”, we’ll grow to love them.

  2. Laurence Pike says:

    The number of roundabouts are increasing in Ontario, at some point the maneuvering of one should become part of the standard G2 and G tests.

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