Skip

Round a about
September 8, 2004 12:53 AM   Subscribe

These images caused a great debate among my antipodean circle in London whether they are real or have been photoshopped. As far as we can gather it does exist. But it is surreal - and only in the UK surely would something like this be real.
posted by Samuel Farrow (85 comments total)

 
Such things are even more baffling to American eyes; we don't have roundabouts at all, or at least too few to be worth mentioning. The very idea of a roundabout of roundabouts is... boggling.
posted by majick at 1:01 AM on September 8, 2004


I'd love to see how traffic actually flows through one of these things...
posted by cinematique at 1:02 AM on September 8, 2004


I'm pretty sure it exists and think I saw a picture of it on a UK TV programme last week. As a londoner myself, my reaction to the TV clip was - f**k that!!!
posted by floanna at 1:07 AM on September 8, 2004


That looks insanely complicated. And for other odd local traffic crules check out Melbourne's Hook turn.
posted by meech at 1:11 AM on September 8, 2004


And people here are confused about our Michigan lefts. Sheesh.
posted by snarkywench at 1:13 AM on September 8, 2004


I was scared half to death every time the driver I was with pulled a hook turn in Melbourne. Why on earth do they have such a thing?
posted by dobbs at 1:15 AM on September 8, 2004


There's something like this in Hemel Hempstead, too.

It's a real bugger to cycle round in rush hour.
posted by monkey closet at 1:17 AM on September 8, 2004


we should definately bomb that
posted by Satapher at 1:23 AM on September 8, 2004


Why the Melbourne hook turn? Because other wise you'd crash into the trams when turning right. The trams are in the middle of the road in Melbourne, not along the sides as in most other cities. So to turn right (remember they drive on the left side of the road) you would normally wait in the middle of the road till traffic's gone, but because of the trams, there's a hook turn, so you go to the LEFT side of the road and wait before finally turning RIGHT:

I know. Weird. Here's more.
posted by jill at 1:28 AM on September 8, 2004


That's the magic roundabout in Swindon isn't it.
posted by fullerine at 1:30 AM on September 8, 2004


I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA I must RTFA
posted by fullerine at 1:30 AM on September 8, 2004


I've been through that a number of times - and actually it works surprisingly well.

It's impossible to keep track of what's going on over all the little roundabouts so you're forced to limit your awareness to the bit of road you're currently navigating.. And suddenly you're out the other side, wondering how on earth you got there!

I think it relies on the novelty/confusion factor to induce a state of (relative) hyper-awareness in drivers.
posted by cell at 1:33 AM on September 8, 2004


My mum went round part of the Hemel Hempstead one the wrong way once (when it was first changed about 20 years ago). Here's a pic of Charles Kennedy looking impressed with it.
posted by davehat at 1:34 AM on September 8, 2004


Don't get down on yourself fullerine, Swindon isn't that exciting.

That hook turn looks confusing but all things considered more desirable for road safety than a shunt up the backside from a tram I guess.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:39 AM on September 8, 2004


so you go to the LEFT side of the road and wait before finally turning RIGHT

When some idiot crashes into you. You see a lot of dinged driver's doors in Melbourne.

That Swindon roundabout looks insane. And I thought Canberra's were bad.
posted by rory at 1:42 AM on September 8, 2004


You should try learning to drive in the UK. My town has a roundabout every few yards -- never have a junction when there's room for a little roundabout, that's their motto.

It's an absolute nightmare. Especially the ones that have traffic lights all over them, complex lane systems, and so on. The worst one I've ever had to do has been two mini-roundabouts strung together, making a kind of figure-of-8 in the road. Horrible, just horrible.
posted by reklaw at 1:49 AM on September 8, 2004


Heh. I live in Milton Keynes, practically the City of Roundabouts. Fortunately, though, as far as I know we've NOTHING as complicated as this lil' puppy. Thank goodness.
posted by kaemaril at 1:54 AM on September 8, 2004


The worst thing about the London driving is TRAFFIC. My first job in London I had to drive to and six weeks after arriving here a storm had stopped all the trains and they closed the M25 at the next junction while I was on it. It took me 6 1/2 hours to get to work.

Driving in Sydney and Auckland I use to keep a joint in the car in case I got caught in a jam, just to relax with. Tried that when I arrived in the UK, I accomplished nothing as I was stoned the whole time.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:00 AM on September 8, 2004


UK drivers can manage this kind of thing because, unlike their antipodean counterparts, most of them tend to drive when sober ;-)
posted by i_cola at 2:04 AM on September 8, 2004


Check out this GPS drawing of someone driving round and round the magic roundabout. 'Tis a work of art.
posted by chill at 2:04 AM on September 8, 2004


Oh it certainly exists. I've (been) driven over it. Here.
posted by ed\26h at 2:06 AM on September 8, 2004


There's one of those in Colchester too - it's not confusing if you view it as lots of little roundabouts next to each other on a road that just happens to loop round in a circle (admittedly it's easier in Colchester as the whole thing is larger). It works fine until the traffic gets too heavy, at which point the queue of cars waiting to turn at one mini-roundabout gets back to the previous one, and the whole thing gridlocks.
posted by Singular at 2:09 AM on September 8, 2004


I don't know what the problem is - those chained roundabouts generally work pretty well, and roundabouts in general are a good thing I think (don't get me started on traffic calming though...)

Ah, this thread reminds me of driving through the magic roundabout in Hemel and all the traffic grinding to a halt for 5 minutes to let a family of ducks waddle across from the centre to the other side of the junction. We brits love us some cute ducks.
posted by bifter at 2:22 AM on September 8, 2004


That is a terrifying piece of road layout; I've been on it many times, albeit only once as the driver, and it's less fun than getting hit in the head with a wrench.

The thing is, the little roundabouts all effectively create a big roundabout in the centre, where the traffic goes the wrong way round. Surely a recipe for disaster, or at least a lost lunch or two.
posted by bwerdmuller at 2:35 AM on September 8, 2004


As a brit brought up with roundabouts I have no problem with them (apart from the one I drove round the wrong way a couple of weeks ago after spending 4 months abroad - I apologise to the driver who's life expectancy I shortened by a few years), however the thing that always freaks me out is the Right Turn on Red thing in the US.

You want me to turn? With the traffic light on red? You're sure about this? Took a while that did.
posted by jontyjago at 2:50 AM on September 8, 2004


I've noticed 'right turn on red' in France, too - I've heard varying stories about whether it's actually legal or not, but everyone does it.

Scares me more as a pedestrian than it does when I'm in a hire car!
posted by cell at 2:58 AM on September 8, 2004



UK drivers can manage this kind of thing because, unlike their antipodean counterparts, most of them tend to drive when sober ;-)


Hmph.
posted by rory at 3:23 AM on September 8, 2004


Swindon makes Metafilter - wow! It exists, it's every bit as terrifying as it looks, bwerdmuller is right, as you approach it the traffic seems to be (and is) going the wrong way round. In fact it seems to be going anywhere and everywhere. The only way through is to narrow your focus to a few feet ahead, keep your foot on the brake and hope for the best.

Swindon is terribly proud of it however, a huge photograph greets passengers from the London train captioned "Swindon, home of roundabouts".

Here's the official tourist website with a panoramic view. You will learn that Swindon is the town with the most roundabouts in Europe. There's even a song.

I do notice that it is not much imitated. I think we can see why.
posted by grahamwell at 3:31 AM on September 8, 2004


Eep. That looks absolutely frightening. As a Yank abroad, roundabouts are the reason that I haven't driven in my six years here in Rome. I can't imagine attempting the Magic Roundabout while driving on the left side of the road.
posted by romakimmy at 3:48 AM on September 8, 2004


This seems to be the definitive listing of magic roundabouts in Britain. There are some wonderful sites devoted to British roads, and anyone interested in this sort of thing should check out the lists of bad junctions and pathetic motorways.
posted by verstegan at 3:58 AM on September 8, 2004


There is a theory that roundabouts have a severe effect on the psychological makeup of a country depending on which side of the road the country drives on. In countries that drive on the left (such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the UK, India, much of South-east Asia and the Falkland Islands) the left side of the brain gets squashed as a driver goes round a roundabout, which crushes the cells responsible for language and reasoning. Conversely, in countries that drive on the right (everywhere else except Thailand, where they drive in the middle) the side of the brain responsible for creativity gets crushed. Independent observers have pointed out that this explains why the English are unreasonable and incomprehensible, but make the best pop music on the planet.
There's some truth in that.

graham - swindon and it's so-called 'magic roundabout' have been on mefi before, but only as a footnote, which is of course fitting for a town with so little to boast of. They may be only 40 miles from the historic seat of learning which is Oxford and my home town, but I've only had one occasion to go there. I think it was to buy straw... Anyway, give them their moment in the sun (it's hardly likely to be 15 minutes of fame, is it?) and the sad little dears will keep quite...till their next mefi mention. Or a 30 second spot on 'South Today'. It's about all they're fit for...

romakimmy - well, it's not really driving, if it's in Italy. It's a contact sport. To take part, you have to be Italian or clinically insane , which amounts to the same thing. I hitched round Italy 20 odd years ago - the priest who picked me up blessed me. That was scary...
posted by dash_slot- at 4:00 AM on September 8, 2004 [1 favorite]


Such things are even more baffling to American eyes; we don't have roundabouts at all, or at least too few to be worth mentioning.

I'm guessing that you don't live in New England.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:03 AM on September 8, 2004


I used to drive that daily a few years ago; it has the same traffic-calming effect, (i.e. sheer terror), that a 12-inch metal spike mounted centrally on the steering wheel would have.
posted by punilux at 4:14 AM on September 8, 2004


There's one of these multi-roundabout affairs somewhere in High Wycombe, I went through it once. It's nowhere near as confusing as Manchester city centre where I ended up driving up a kerb, across a tram line (in front of an oncoming tram, no less), and back down the other side.
posted by wackybrit at 4:18 AM on September 8, 2004


Oh Swindon, how may I sing your praises ...
Birthplace of Genius
Home of Industry
University Town
Shopping mecca
Home of the Arts
Site of ancient wonders

All this and a revolutionary (ehem) traffic scheme .. you're just jealous!
posted by grahamwell at 4:27 AM on September 8, 2004


Guys, wait until you get a chance to drive in Cairo (Egypt)
posted by acrobat at 4:33 AM on September 8, 2004


Of course (and I sincerely hope you dismiss this comment as humour or madness, because really, I'm not allowed to say this), the roundabout is our way of communicating with the aliens.

And the dead.

But mostly the aliens.
posted by seanyboy at 4:34 AM on September 8, 2004 [1 favorite]


I used to live in Colchester and I adored the magic roundabout that squatted merrily beside Tesco. You could even get around its tendency to gridlock in one direction by changing lanes and driving round it in the other. However, it was also possible to get herded to the inside lane and get stuck there by the weight of traffic, which could make the whole thing feel like a terrifying catherine wheel. Eventually you'd see a gap and leap through it and either reach your destination or get a lowered BMW 3-series through your side door.

wackybrit: I drove around Manchester city centre three times before I moved here. I once got stuck with a bus in an inexplicable and sudden cul-de-sac, and had to put up with the driver banging his fists on on my roof while I attempted to extricate myself. When I moved here I sold my car. I take the tram now.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:41 AM on September 8, 2004


There's one of these multi-roundabout affairs somewhere in High Wycombe

The one in High Wycombe is a bit different though - it's just a bunch of mini-roundabouts in relatively close proximity, arranged in a circle. There's actually a short stretch of road between each one, and you can go round it clockwise or anticlockwise as your mood takes you.
posted by bifter at 4:46 AM on September 8, 2004


Don't forget: Swindon is also the beloved hometown of the band XTC...

Which means I've always had a fondness for the place, deep in my heart.

And as a Melburnian, I've learned to love the hook turn...

Let's all hug and forget our traffic differences...
posted by chrisgregory at 4:47 AM on September 8, 2004


Does Swindon really have more roundabouts than Milton Keynes?
posted by biffa at 5:14 AM on September 8, 2004


Guys, wait until you get a chance to drive in Cairo (Egypt)

True. Cairo made Napoli look like a city full of grandmas on Valium driving with their parking brakes on. (What *is* the deal in Egypt with honking 50 meters before and after every blade of grass on the side of the road?)
posted by romakimmy at 5:15 AM on September 8, 2004


[obscure]
This wouldn't have a suspicious resemblance to an ancient glyph and been designed by a guy named Crowley, would it?
[/obscure]
posted by deadcowdan at 5:30 AM on September 8, 2004


Cool post, thanks samuel farrow! Makes our wimpy roundabouts look, well, wimpy. (who said there weren't any in the US?) I don't think the American public could handle the Magic of Swindon. I certainly couldn't! Not without a flash tutorial viewed several hundred times. And even then, being *in* it is a big difference, I would imagine. I tip my hat to UK drivers.
posted by yoga at 5:34 AM on September 8, 2004


Swindon gave us Melinda Messinger, Mark LaMarr, Julian Clary, Supertramp and Billie Piper? What Satapher said.
posted by monkey closet at 5:38 AM on September 8, 2004


deadcowdan: I bet it is churning out low-grade evil as we speak.

"...the very shape of the M25 forms the sign odegra in the language of the Black Priesthood of Ancient Mu, and means 'Hail the Great Beast, Devourer of Worlds.' The thousands of motorists who daily fume their way around its serpentine lengths have the same effect as water on a prayer wheel, grinding out an endless fog of low-grade evil to pollute the metaphysical atmosphere for scores of miles around. It was one of Crowley's better achievements... and had involved three computer hacks, two break-ins, one minor bribery and, when all else had failed, two hours in a squelchy field shifting the marker pegs a few but occultly incredibly significant meters"
posted by sciurus at 5:49 AM on September 8, 2004


It's a sigil, deadcowdan.

/pedant
/obscure ;)
/beaten on preview
posted by romakimmy at 5:53 AM on September 8, 2004


geez. we put a little roundabout on campus (replaced a traffic circle that nobody could figure out how to use) and we ended up with a roundabout that nobody knows how to use, despite the plethora of instructional signs, combinaton of solid and dotted white lines, etc. it absolutely amazes me that people have problems with it. but then again i didn't knw how people had trouble with the traffic circles either - we still have like 3 others on campus. (basically a two-lane roundabout with no splitter island, and no lane lines painted inside the circle. the roundabout added the splitter island, angled into the flow of traffic to ease entering, and lane lines - but people largely ignore them...) just be glad that not too many michigan drivers make it to swindon.

i think by and large people in michigan are just too agressive behind the wheel to pay attention. we build cars here, we invented cars here, and having one car per person is a birthright. thus we have more cars on the highway than is necessary, driving us to drive like bastards for no good reason.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:07 AM on September 8, 2004


deadcowdan - You're very close there.

You see, the Swindon Roundabout is in fact the original design inspiration which aliens have drawn on for their now famous oeuvre.


posted by troutfishing at 6:09 AM on September 8, 2004


Why would turning right on red freak anyone out? Here in Philadelphia, stop signs are more like yield signs. Bicyclists almost never even slow down at stop signs. Also, when you're at a light, you watch the lights of cross traffic to tell you when to go. When it's red for them, it must be in the works for your light to change green for you. That way, you can floor it and make it across the light before the out of towners even see green & know what's going on. We also have alot of small roads with cars parked on both sides, creating a 1 lane road, but traffic is still allowed both ways. I've ridden with alot of African cab drivers that say driving around parts of Philly is like driving around back home for them.

Now that I'm riding a motorcycle around town, I'm deathly afraid that my life will be ended by some crazy cager shooting through an intersection without even thinking.

Good luck with all of your own traffic anomalies.
posted by password at 6:24 AM on September 8, 2004


c l v: A fellow Spartan! I was going to mention MSU's "roundabouts," but they hardly deserve to be placed in the same category as that Swindon monstrosity.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:33 AM on September 8, 2004


If you built one of those in Minnesota, the proper name would be "demolition derby".
posted by gimonca at 7:02 AM on September 8, 2004


The magic roundabout drawn by GPS
posted by vbfg at 7:13 AM on September 8, 2004


Yeah, I don't see why right on red would be confusing either. It just assumes you aren't an idiot and can turn when the road is clear, regardless of what the light says. It's illegal in New York though, for good reason. There are enough flat pedestrians already.

You should try learning to drive in the UK. My town has a roundabout every few yards -- never have a junction when there's room for a little roundabout, that's their motto.

But that makes sense doesn't it? It was like that in France & drove me nuts the first day, but then I realized more roundabouts = fewer stoplights. The counterclockwise would fuck me though; when I rode my bike around in Scotland I kept drifting right until some car showed up going "the wrong way" & scared me back to the left.
posted by dame at 7:13 AM on September 8, 2004


snarky, they've got those in texas, too. confused the hell out of my chicago compatriots on a business trip.

/americafilter
posted by crush-onastick at 7:18 AM on September 8, 2004


"It just assumes you aren't an idiot and can turn when the road is clear, regardless of what the light says."

Oh, the road is supposed to be clear before you can turn? Doesn't seem to make any difference to the French.. Road full of pedestrians? Drive through them! Stream of traffic? Merge in!

In the UK we have a special green left-pointing (wrong side of the road, remember, so it's equivalent) arrow that lights up when it's OK to turn but the main light is red.
posted by cell at 7:21 AM on September 8, 2004


Yo, chrisgregory (no relation to Dave, are ya?), I thought you were gonna mention the key thing about the XTC-Swindon connecton: That their best album has a song expressly devoted to the "English Roundabout." One of the few pop songs (I guess you could call it quasi-ska) in five, the rhythm seems to perfectly capture the desperation of turning just a moment before you'd think you have to, over and over.

The Magic Roundabout wasn't there back in 1982, was it? If so, I could imagine it being the particular inspiration for this.
posted by soyjoy at 7:29 AM on September 8, 2004


I really like the right turn on red rule - saves a lot of time and as long as you watch out for pedestrians you're OK.

I'm still trying to work out if the USians pip the New Zealanders as the wrost drivers in the 'western' world. The Sri Lankans have it hands down in Asia which is saying something.

As for scary roundabouts, try getting round Bangkok's Democracy Monument at rush hour. 10 lanes of hell. Or is it 12? Or 8? They tend to make it up as they go along...
posted by i_cola at 7:31 AM on September 8, 2004


Look kids! Big Ben...Parliament. Big Ben! Parliament...
posted by naxosaxur at 8:03 AM on September 8, 2004


naxosaur I use to have to walk past parliament square on my way to work everyday and remembering that always made me laugh. Particularly when I overheard two tourists make the exact same comment.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 8:07 AM on September 8, 2004


It is a case of what you are used to. I would have no problem with the Magic Roundabout, and in a strange way, I think it makes sense (although it seems as though they put it there as a New-town experiment).

The Right Turn on Red is just bizarre. I still have trouble with that.
posted by catchmurray at 8:23 AM on September 8, 2004


Right turn on red scares me silly as a pedestrian - you mean I have to step out in front of these vehicles that seem to be nosing round the corner towards me even though the little man is green for me? brrr.

Friend of mine from the Falkland Islands (where we do drive on the left as previously mentioned but we have no roundabouts and 4 cars is a traffic jam) was recently driving in the UK for the first time and approached his first ever roundabout only to find it was a magic roundabout. He asked his English fiancee in the closing seconds before the junction "So what do I do here?" Incredibly, they're still alive.

I think she got through it with a lot of "Follow the red car. The green car. The silver car."
posted by penguin pie at 8:23 AM on September 8, 2004


there's a roundabout near Niles, Illinois. As I approached it for the first and only time, being completely unfamiliar with the concept, I thought to myself, "What the hell?"

oh, and that Michigan left thing. i do that all the time when i leave the drive thru at the local McDonalds.
posted by schlaager at 8:34 AM on September 8, 2004


I feel like this is a double post, but I don't really care.
posted by ChasFile at 8:38 AM on September 8, 2004


This is a good argument for the grid plan.
posted by adamrice at 8:40 AM on September 8, 2004


The problem with an American looking at the roundabout from the UK is we are used to driving on the other side. So every instinct we have about the rules of the road makes it even more complicated. If it was adjusted the opposite way for American drivers, it would make a whole heck of a lot more sense. then just trying to figure it out from the UK version.

It looks pretty easy if you can imagine driving on the "wrong" side of the road while looking at the pictures.
posted by andryeevna at 8:59 AM on September 8, 2004


OMG. What a bunch of feebs.

Right [left] turn on red is perfectly sensible. You pull up to the stop line. You look left [right] for oncoming traffic and pedestrians. You look right [left] for more pedestrians. You turn when it's safe to do so. No biggy.

Simple roundabouts are wonderful. Simple = single lane. IFF the other drivers have any sort of clue, there's no need to stop: you just match speed as you approach and slip right into a gap. Best Intersection Evah.

Two-lane roundabouts can be great, too, but there's less chance that the other drivers are going to be fully clueful. Take the right [left] lane if you're going 1/4 of the circle; take the left [right] lane if you're going further. There's no conflict between lanes that way.

Roundabouts with traffic lights can work, but mostly they're just stupid. For one thing, they stop the flow of traffic, which is exactly opposite the reason to have a roundabout in the first place.

The Magic Roundabout looks pretty damn cool to me... but I'd hate to enter it without first having examined The Map. It makes perfect sense. You're always driving on the correct side of the road (for Britain).

If you're afraid of TMR, you'd treat it as an ordinary traffic circle: follow the outside all the way 'round to your exit. No problem.

If you're adventurous, you get to take shortcuts: instead of going the long way 'round, you can cross traffic and hit the inner circle, go the short way, and then exit by crossing traffic. Which, if the thing is as busy as they claim, is probably going to take longer than going the long way 'round, 'cause you'll have to wait twice for gaps in the traffic...

I think the latter case is where it would all fall apart: when it's busy, you have to cross traffic, which is dangerous and slow. When it's not busy, you don't need the shortcut.

It might have all worked better with two incoming/exit lanes for each feeder road, and three rings of same-direction traffic for the circle. You'd use the outside ring if going 1-road over, the middle ring if going 2-3 roads over, and the inside ring if you're going 3-5 roads over.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:11 AM on September 8, 2004


there's a roundabout near Niles, Illinois

Only it doesn't really work like a real roundabout as they have Stop signs at each entrance. The nice thing about a real roundabout (even one of those pimple in the middle if the intersection mini-roundabouts) is that everybody yields to those already on the roundabout -- that often implies a stop, but if there's no traffic you barely slow down.

I'm more familiar with the magic roundabout in Hemel rather than the one in Swindon, but I never found it too confusing. As with all driving, you take care of the immediate situation (in this case yielding to the person in front of you who has right of way, if necessary) and the bigger picture mostly takes care of itself.

Right turn on red takes a little getting used to, but it makes sense and is fine when people follow the rules (i.e. yielding to pedestrians, obeying the "No Turn on Red" signs, etc.). Of course, following the rules is not high on the agenda for a lot of drivers in the US (don't even mention "lane discipline").

It may be that I am jaded because at one point in the dear, dead, distant past I had a job driving a furniture van around London.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:38 AM on September 8, 2004


My neighborhood in Austin TX has a bunch of little roundabouts on residential streets, put in as part of a traffic-calming experiment. A lot of people don't understand them: they come to complete stops, they "shoot under" when taking a left, etc.

There's a monster traffic circle up by Waco; there's a famous diner, the Elite Cafe, right on it, where you can buy "I survived the circle" T-shirts. Although it doesn't formally have the same layout as the magic roundabout, traffic is crazy enough that it might as well.
posted by adamrice at 10:07 AM on September 8, 2004


Such a big fuss for such a simple concept!

I learned to drive in Washington DC and learned traffic circles (what we American Cousins call roundabouts) early on.

I've been laughing may way through this post and discussion because a new circle has recently been added here in Delaware (my adopted home) in the US summer capital of Rehoboth Beach. It has caused no end of consternation.
posted by mmahaffie at 10:17 AM on September 8, 2004


There's a monster traffic circle up by Waco; there's a famous diner, the Elite Cafe, right on it, where you can buy "I survived the circle" T-shirts. Although it doesn't formally have the same layout as the magic roundabout, traffic is crazy enough that it might as well.

First time I tried the circle in Waco, I wound up getting in the inside lane (uh, well, what would be if anyone actually paid attention to the lane markers on it) and going around three times before exiting back where I started. I finally mastered it after a couple of semesters there, but yeah, it was interesting.

btw, if you're not aware, adamrice, the Elite Cafe was closed for about a year and a half for redesign. I heard it recently reopened and supposed to be a hell of a lot nicer (meaning, not a shithole).
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:43 AM on September 8, 2004


What Mayor Curley said. The other day I went through four different rotaries all within 20 minutes from home. and I could have hit more if I was trying.
posted by anathema at 10:54 AM on September 8, 2004


mmahaffie - don't think it's the same thing. we have both traffic circles and roundabouts here. the little island dividing the incoming/outgoing lanes is the difference, i think. but there are very clearly labeled signs stating "roundabout ahead" and then a bit further more signs explaining that there is a traffic circle beyond the roundabout. what fun!

and props to the green and white, pardonyou? ! (hell, my parents met at state - where else could i go?)
posted by caution live frogs at 10:57 AM on September 8, 2004


there's a roundabout near Niles, Illinois. As I approached it for the first and only time, being completely unfamiliar with the concept, I thought to myself, "What the hell?"

The one where Golf meets Wolf? I think that's actually in Des Plaines.

I remember after I had been living down here for a few years I wanted to route my parents around some roadwork so I told them to take 294 to Golf to whereever... My Dad was pretty upset that I had sent him into that "weird thing"

They don't have that kind of nonsense in Wisconsin.
posted by Bonzai at 11:23 AM on September 8, 2004


deadcowdan, Good Omens is the first thing I thought of, after I was brought around with smelling salts after imagining driving this thing a bit too vividly.

I know that I will dream tonight that I am driving along it in a school bus backwards, mowing down the surviving members of Monty Python, the wee ducklings, Franz Ferdinand and all the runners-up from this year's Mercury Prize, some Little Folk, Nigella Lawson, Nigella Lawson's puppy...basically everything that is beloved in Britain squealing and screeching under my wheels.

It may be a simple concept, but it doesn't stop people unfamiliar with them from driving them poorly (especially in America), so yes, roundabouts are cause for consternation, and magic roundabouts are cause for nervous collapse.
posted by melissa may at 11:33 AM on September 8, 2004


People in America drive poorly even on lane-divided straightaways, so it's little surprise a roundabout would throw them into a tizzy. That's no excuse to not have more of them.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:51 AM on September 8, 2004


All part of Dougal's sinister plan.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:22 PM on September 8, 2004


"If you built one of those in Minnesota"

Well, Minnesota has at least one (1) roundabout. It's in St. Paul, on Minnehaha parkway right where it meets up with Ford Ave.
posted by kavasa at 1:25 PM on September 8, 2004 [1 favorite]


I have only driven in Britain once. Driving on the left didn't really bother me, particularly because the traffic seemed pretty polite, but I did find these really, really confusing.

Can someone explain how this works-- I would drive up to the first smaller circle, rotating once until I could get into the larger circle; then continue on my way, going counter-clockwise until I reached the exit I wanted. Would I need to go in a circle on each spoke of the traffic circle, or just when I wanted to enter and exit this thing? Damn, I can't even explain my question. I am certain that this will visit me in my worst nightmares from this day on.

Is this one of those things people like once they get the hang of it?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:46 PM on September 8, 2004


The rules, as I understand them, are thus:

For a single-lane circle, you must yield to traffic already in the circle. If you are a good driver, you will time your speed such that you do not stop at the circle: you will enter it at a gap in the traffic, so that no one is inconvenienced. When you exit, you will signal so that people at other entry points know there's a gap coming up.

For a two-lane circle, you again yield to traffic in the circle and time your entry. You will use the outside lane only when you will be exiting immediately. If you are going further through, you need to use the inside lane. When this rule is followed, no one will ever be crossing paths: the inside guys will always have a clear shot at exiting.

Naturally, half the population is utterly clueless about this rule, and so as an inside-lane driver you'll have to do a careful shoulder-check before exiting, lest someone drive into your passenger door. If your exit is blocked, don't hammer on the brakes! Make a full go-around and try again. Otherwise you risk causing a rear-end collision with the guy behind you, who might very well also be performing a shouldercheck at the same time you are.

With the Magic Roundabout, it appears to me that one can make use of the outside (clockwise) circle as if it were an ordinary circle, following the rules as above. I suspect that for circles with 3+ lanes, the idea is that the further 'round the circle you plan to go, the further inside the circle you should be, moving toward the outside as you get closer to your preferred exit.

IOW, if you plan to exit immediately, take the first lane; if you plan to exit one after that, take the second lane; if the one after that, take the third lane until you're past the first exit, then move to the second lane, then exit.

The Magic Roundabout has six entry/exit points. This is a large circle, and so they've added a "shortcut" for those people are going from exit 1 to exit 5 or 6: the dread Inside Passage.

My best guess is that you can take the shortcut by entering the small circle immediately in front of your entry point, cutting into the flow of the inside drivers, and then do much the same at the exit.

I'm not entirely sure why these little roundabouts exist: one would never need to go around them, as they have only two "exit points" (one to the outside lane, which doesn't really count as an exit; and one to the inside lane).

I have a niggling suspicion that the Magic Roundabout is actually more like ten or so roads: ie. that several of the entry/exit points are actually two entirely separate roads once you're more than a couple hundred feet away from the circle. This would explain the design somewhat better: there would be times one effectively needs to "pull a U-turn" by entering the mini-circle, going full-round, and exiting back whence you came. I note, however, that one could always accomplish this the long way 'round, simply sticking to the outer (clockwise) circle.

It's also entirely possible that Swindon did this because, well, because Swindon is Swindon and the British are British. Lovely chaps, them Brits, but sometimes a little eccentric, y'know.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:27 PM on September 8, 2004


c/My best guess is that you can take the shortcut by entering the small circle immediately in front of your entry point, cutting into the flow of the inside [clockwise] drivers, and then do much the same at the exit./

c/they have only two "exit points" (one to the outside [clockwise] circle, which doesn't really count as an exit; and one to the inside [contraclockwise] circle)./

Just to clarify my lanes and circles...
posted by five fresh fish at 5:30 PM on September 8, 2004


Arrrgh! For that first correction, I mean the inside (contraclockwise) drivers!

Damn left-hand backwards drivers! It's sooo confusing when the rest of the world doesn't drive on the sane side of the road!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:32 PM on September 8, 2004


Ooh, roadgeekfilter. Paging kurumi...

Some readers are confused. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, a roundabout , also known as a modern roundabout, is technically quite different from a traffic circle/rotary. The Des Plaines example noted above, as well as numerous examples in places like New Jersey, are rotaries. They take up an enormous amount of space for not much gain in traffic throughput, and they actually decrease safety in some ways.

Roundabouts were specifically designed to increase traffic flow and safety while using not much more space than a normal intersection. The chief difference is the use of yield instead of stop markers -- but perhaps the most important change is that roundabouts are deliberately designed to have tight cornering. It makes it look confusing, yes, but you must slow down. The roundabout having been developed in the UK in the 1960s, drivers in a place like Swindon were well-prepared for a complex super-roundabout. US drivers are still a bit baffled by them, but traffic engineers have recognized the benefits and are introducing them where political oversight is lax governments can be persuaded to try something new. The first was in Vail almost ten years ago; since then they've spread to dozens of other states.
posted by dhartung at 10:59 PM on September 8, 2004


Two years ago I went with my mother, my son, and my niece back to the Homeland, where we rented a very nice car. I was elected to drive, and with intense focus on what I was doing, and by ignoring every instinct ingrained in me by 20 years of driving on the right side of the road, I did pretty well. I managed to acquire a zen-like calm about roundabouts, mostly due to the fact that if you miss your exit you can just keep circling like a cigarette butt in a toilet bowl, spinning around and around until you figure out what to do. We'd probably still be there today if it wasn't for some daring maneuvering which involved me shoulder checking the wrong direction before heading for the outside lane and freedom. Sorry about that, whoever you were, I scared the hell out of both of us.

I eventually got fairly handy at roundabouts, until I came across the evil ones with traffic lights. Fortunately, there were no other cars on the road at the time.

The concentration it took me to retrain myself to turn left into the closer lane paid off in spades when I came back to Canada and found that I couldn't stop doing it. I still do.

And how come nobody's mentioned Yes? (Link to tribute band home page-- their name? Roundabout, of course.)
posted by jokeefe at 2:26 PM on September 9, 2004


Thanks for the explanations. I think I'll have to try these out next time I get to Britain.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:31 PM on September 9, 2004


« Older Double negative?   |   Oh, to be able to be a gadfly! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post