Traffic Control Geek

02Apr10

I have a strange fascination with a certain traffic control device that I have seen popping up more and more around the Twin Cities.  The Roundabout!

My family looks at me strangely everytime we see one.  I get kind of excited, especially if we have to make a left turn through the roundabout–you get to use three-fourths of it!  (I suppose it doesn’t help that I see it coming up and shout “Rrrrounnnndabouuut!”)  They appeal to my sense of “quirky” and affinity for things that aren’t quite run-of-the-mill.

Quick lesson: What exactly is a roundabout?  A roundabout is an intersection where instead of the roads and accompanying traffic directly crossing each other they travel one direction around a center island.

They can be a little confusing the first time you see one and the signs don’t always help.  It can look kind of like dance step instructions for a deformed spider, especially if it’s two or three lane streets crossing each other.  But a lot of it is really common sense and basic rules:

  1. Traffic already in the roundabout has the right-of-way.  Approaching traffic must yield.
  2. As you approach, pick the lane appropriate to your future direction just as if the roads directly crossed each other.  For example, with a two lane approach, use the right lane if you want to “turn” right and the left lane if you want to go “straight” or “turn” left.  A three-lane would be left turn in the left lane, straight in the middle lane and right turn in the right lane.
  3. Once in the roundabout keep moving.

While they may not be the best option in some spots, they have been shown to be able to handle more traffic with fewer crashes than a lot of other intersection formats.  And I think they’re kind of fun.

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