Utah Roundabouts
December 26, 2002 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Roundabouts are growing in popularity, in Utah of all places. It's a good thing there's a website and an official government guide to teach us how to use them, because we really suck at driving.
posted by mr_crash_davis (24 comments total)
Oddly enough roundabouts are being torn down in Mumbai (Bombay) because they suck during rush hour, and get replaced by signals. Of course our signal system works differently from the one in the US. In India at regular green light you can only go straight or turn left (we drive on the left, cars are right hand drive). At the same time the traffic on the street to the right can take a right onto the street where the traffic on the other side of the road has a green signal. It might sound confusing, but it's not, it flows really well.
posted by riffola at 6:12 PM on December 26, 2002

I drive by this one sometimes. Its a small one and works well most of the time, but I have almost been hit a few times when people don't signal how much of the circle they plan to use.
posted by CJB at 6:20 PM on December 26, 2002

No roundabout thread should go without mentioning Swindon's Magic Roundabout! More pictures here. Did any of you use it?
posted by MzB at 6:41 PM on December 26, 2002

Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament! er, uh... Mormon Tabernacle, Delta Center!
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:59 PM on December 26, 2002

We just had one put up in Iowa. So far, it's not a problem because there's only one road...but a lot of people I know around here are worried about safety after the crossroad is connected. Thanks for the link, it does a nice job of showing how this might benefit us instead of a light.
Now, if only our drivers learn to watch for those pedestrians, bicycles and other traffic.
posted by ArsncHeart at 7:05 PM on December 26, 2002

Frank Grimes: You beat me to the Griswold reference! "I can't...seem...to...get left!"

BTW, can I call you "Grimey?"
posted by davidmsc at 7:16 PM on December 26, 2002

Out in these parts, they're too big and they're called "rotaries", which is New English for "drive in as fast as you can and the first person who yields is a no-good chicken". There's quite a few stories out there about them. They did seem to work when I drove through (real) England a few years ago, so maybe they would be a real alternative to four-way stops in less-heavy traffic areas. My Massachusetts experience, however, has soured me on any application to highways.
posted by yhbc at 7:29 PM on December 26, 2002

As a boston driver rotaries are about the funnest thing out there, and they actually are faster then traffic signals (as long as you don't have tourists in front of you). However, i must disagree with the given instructions, this is how it actually works

1) slow down slightly when approaching the rotary, tap brakes lightly
2) Accellerate as quickly as possible to cut off those currently in the rotary
3) drive around the center as fast as possible (just testing the suspension)
4) fling the car towards an exit making sure to act like your going to T anyone entering the rotary

as long as everyone drives like a masshole the rotary works perfectly.
posted by NGnerd at 8:06 PM on December 26, 2002

>My Massachusetts experience, however, has soured me on any application to highways.

>as long as everyone drives like a masshole the rotary works perfectly.

I read the comments for this post just to make sure nobody forgot about Masshole's, in my opinion the least desirable creatures infesting our highway systems.
posted by Lungsbreth at 9:21 PM on December 26, 2002

New South Wales Roundabout Rules.

Handedness of course should be reversed where necessary.

If you can understand these rules, don't tell me, OK? I just give way to my right, which seems to work.

Also, get this - "You must indicate a left turn just before you exit unless it is not practical to do so." That is, indicate a turn even if you're not going to turn! An SMH correspondent, commenting on this IIRC 1998 rule, suggested that one should just turn on one's hazard lights to be on the safe side. The rule's probably unintended side-effect has been that, since no one knows where anyone is headed, everyone is extra-careful.
posted by emf at 9:34 PM on December 26, 2002

Utah isn't that odd, since the first modern roundabout in the US is in Vail, CO followed soon after by Aspen, CO. The phenomenon has spread largely in the West to date, although a few eastern states like New Jersey are starting to build them, sometimes replacing existing traffic circles. A rotary, incidentally, is closer in construction to a traffic circle than to a roundabout; the latter has only one lane and is much more like freeway entrance ramps that merge and then diverge again than a round, multi-lane street. Whatever you think of rotaries probably does not apply to roundabouts. They have largely proven themselves in the main functions of smoother traffic flow and fewer accidents, so after a few years of obscurity, they're starting to become more common.
posted by dhartung at 10:42 PM on December 26, 2002

That is, indicate a turn even if you're not going to turn!

Er, no. Indicate a left turn before you exit...you will always be exiting to the left unless you're doing some seriously wacky driving, so that actually does make sense...
posted by backOfYourMind at 10:50 PM on December 26, 2002

in my opinion the least desirable creatures infesting our highway systems.

oh please. it's just like NYC, if everyone drove like us, traffic would be perfect. I blame the out of towners....

My most frightening rotary experience was in Bucharest where three or four big highways would enter into these huge traffic circle like places, except there were no real islands in the middle. You could go around counter-clockwise, or you could -- as the buses did -- gun it straight through the middle. The only thing maybe scarier than being in a car going through these things was being the traffic cop, armed only with a whistle, standing right in the center of it all.
posted by jessamyn at 11:05 PM on December 26, 2002

The mining town of Welkom in central SA, was known for the fact that they only used roundabouts, with no robots (SA term for traffic lights) at all. However that era has come to an end with the first robots going up earlier this year.
posted by PenDevil at 11:57 PM on December 26, 2002

One of Honolulu's first roundabouts was installed about twenty yards from my apartment.

Honestly, I like the concept, but the implementation is so ridiculous, it's got to be a city planner's joke. The thing is so small - replacing an intersection of two fairly narrow residential streets - a big potted palm tree in the middle of the old regular intersection would be about as effective. Not only that, but it's crammed so tightly into the space, that city buses that come up one street several times a day have to drive over it.

It was one of many ridiculous, gaudy projects our mayor pushed through (from neighborhood pools, built even though there were no funds for staffing and upkeep, to skateboard parks in just about any open space), in anticipation of a run for governor this year. Fortunately, the chicken's came home to roost in the form of a campaign finance investigation, and the man's just lame ducking it, keeping a low profile until his terms up in two years.
posted by pzarquon at 11:59 PM on December 26, 2002

>"You must indicate a left turn just before you exit unless it is not practical to do so."

They are simply telling you _not_ to indicate left with a hand signal, since your hand could be lopped off on a roundabout/rotary if you were to signal left with your hand, as the traffic won't stop for you. I'm not sure what isn't clear... ;-)
posted by shepd at 12:44 AM on December 27, 2002

Sorry, didn't mean any derailment.

"You must indicate a left turn just before you exit unless it is not practical to do so."

To clarify my point;

One should not be asked to take a hand off the steering wheel while turning.

There are a lot of people who can't distinguish between left and right.

If you're in the top lane, you're either going straight ahead or turning right.

If you're in the bottom lane, you're either going straight ahead or turning left.

Therefore you don't need to signal any further.

*waves stump to shepd*
posted by emf at 1:13 AM on December 27, 2002

MzB: There's a similar roundabout in Maidenhead, and one out on the A13 in Essex.

I'm very anti-roundabout. Signals are much better.

Not only do roundabouts cause navigation problems for at least 25% of the population (since they always end up cutting into my lane, instead of following their one round), but they are often too small or too big, force you to drive badly, and are bad for the environment.

Roundabouts are fine at motorway junctions, but in the middle of the countryside?? Ban em. I often drive up up the dead-straight A16 in the middle of the night, and the constant roundabouts piss me off.
posted by wackybrit at 2:16 AM on December 27, 2002

>There are a lot of people who can't distinguish between left and right.

I suppose if the driving test were any easier, they'd have to make it a "fill in the question" test. :-D

Anyways, as someone who has to deal with the results of DUI mayors (if it weren't true, I'd have laughed) who like to change the speed limits of various streets without retiming the lights, I'd give my left turn arm to anyone who suggests putting in some roundabouts. I've done more than my fair share of right-uturn-right (illegal left-illegal uturn-illegal left to the British) at night on stupidly timed roads...

wackybrit, after being on a trip to the UK, I think I'm safe in saying that your countryside lanes need traffic control... in a lot of places in Canada a road is busy if you dim your highbeams on your way home. Yet they still put in stop signs (you just never know...)

[ How the heck do you guys deal with all those one-lane two way roads in the countryside all the time, anyways? They always drove me insane, just like the "crown land" reasons for their not being widended if they're running through farms. ]
posted by shepd at 3:09 AM on December 27, 2002

Roundabouts are the single reason I don't think I'll ever learn to drive. I end up sitting on the bus and staring at roundabouts in horror, watching boy racers in tiny little Polos cut off gigantic buses and trucks right and left.

No thank you, Mr. Road Design Man.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:29 AM on December 27, 2002

The growing popularity of roundabouts in the US is bound to bring some good since they are primarily a substitute for the ever-popular and ill-conceived four-way-stop. They can also stem the absurd proliferation of signals where traffic loads have outstripped the viability of the intersecting stop (where one artery has the right-of-way.)

And Katemonkey, I don't currently own a car but when I rent one I will thank you.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:38 AM on December 27, 2002

I love out roundabouts... and they've been generally well placed here in Provo (40 minutes south of Salt Lake).

Best part about it is that they keep traffic moving on streets that only get sporadic congestion without putting in lights that keep motorists idling at empty intersections.

Now if we could just get folks to not _stop_ at them.

posted by silusGROK at 7:15 AM on December 27, 2002

Possibly worth a mention: I'm at my parents in Letchworth, UK, home to Britain's (and I would hazard a guess the world's) first 'intersection for gyratory movement' which was to become known as a roundabout.

Letchworth is also the first of Britain's Garden Cities - all of about two - but apparently other countries adopted the Garden City ideal and people such inclined travel from all over the world in their hundreds dozens to see it.
posted by nthdegx at 10:18 AM on December 27, 2002

roundabouts, when done properly, can make things run a hell of a lot easier.

I don't know if anyone on here is from Doncaster (in the UK), but we have a brand new, yet plainly evil one that has seen over 700 minor accidents in the year it's been open. That's not to mention the 3 times the lines have been scrubbed out and repainted in that time.

And it still doesn't make any sense ;)
posted by robzster1977 at 9:51 PM on December 27, 2002

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