Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting Around

Roundabouts are a relatively new phenomenon here in Minnesota, but they're popping up all over the place, not only in "the Cities" but in smaller towns and busy rural intersections.

The people in charge of planning the roundabouts claim that they're safer than stoplights or other traffic control devices because they eliminate many high-speed "t-bone" crashes, which are often serious.

They also claim that roundabouts are easy to use, and that drivers only have to know three rules in order to use a roundabout properly. (This was in an article accompanied by a 5-point primer for using roundabouts.) Both the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press have published articles about roundabouts.

Apparently the word isn't getting out, because there's a lot of backed up traffic at some roundabouts I've been through, with drivers unsure of how to get in or out of the roundabout safely. This is compounded if it happens to be a two-lane roundabout.

I've heard several tales of semi trucks carrying windmill parts or farmers towing implements who have arrived at a roundabout and are unable to proceed through it due to the length of the load.

Recently, my husband and I witnessed first-hand with incredulity a driver who turned left into a right-angled roundabout. Yes, there was a one-way sign, but snow was perhaps blocking the curbs that would have led him in the right direction. He ended up heading right into the oncoming roundabout traffic and had to drive up onto the high grassy circle to avoid a collision.

Are roundabouts really as simple as their designers claim them to be? What can be done to teach drivers how to safely and properly negotiate a roundabout? Are they a safety device that will last, or just the latest fad that will be reconstructed in a few years? Does this video affect your impressions?

What's your take on roundabouts?


Heather said...

We don't have many of them in our city, but I don't seem to have any trouble with them. I'll admit the first time I came upon one I was totally confused what the thing was though. My mom told me they have a bunch of them out west.

Hip Mom's Guide said...

I totally understand the logic behind them, but when traffic is whizzing around, they throw me a bit. We took the boys to Great Britain a couple of years ago, where it's all roundabouts. I'm sure more than one Brit was yelling "those dumb Americans" as we tried to navigate one, two, or even three roundabouts in a row!

But turning LEFT into one? Nope. We got that part right. :)

Anonymous said...

My town has never met a roundabout they didn't like. There are some instances where it works-- there's an intersection that used to be a 4-way stop near my house that's much better now as a roundabout. But there are other instances-- the new one to get on the turnpike, for example, that leave me baffled.

It took about a year for people to get used to driving around them in our neighborhood, and we rarely have a problem anymore.