Stop the Roundabout Runaround, Install a Traffic Light

Since the issue of roundabouts is settled, the point is moot. But it does bother me that we are all so bad at critical thinking (I include myself in that assessment). Roundabouts sound like a good idea, but even the slightest element of critical thinking should give anyone cause to pause. Below are just some observations:

  • Roundabouts cost a significant amount of money to install, as you have to change the road layout to accommodate an obstacle in the middle of the road. This requires widening the ingress and egress from any angle.
  • Roundabouts require maintenance, particularly if aesthetics are important (and I seem to recall this was a major topic at the time of the initial discussion on roundabouts) and the center is landscaped.
  • Traffic patterns change over time. Roundabouts provide zero flexibility to changing traffic patterns, but produce frustration for those drivers who are caught by a stream of traffic in one direction.
  • People don’t know how to navigate roundabouts. Do you give way to the right (as they do in France) or to whomever is in the roundabout? Regardless of the answer, will people remember, or worse, care? Like all habits, drivers get used to certain traffic patterns and follow local norms. However, visitors aren’t familiar with those norms and can cause disruption or accidents.
  • Roundabouts cause traffic accidents. In days gone by people used to use indicators to show where they were going, but these days – at least in my experience – very few people bother to indicate where they are going. If you are waiting to enter a roundabout and you think the incoming traffic is going to turn away from where you are, you may enter the roundabout and get in an accident.

Conversely, traffic lights:

  • Don’t cost a lot of money to install, and don’t require any change to the road structure.
  • Traffic lights are very flexible. They can be programmed and reprogrammed at very low cost and as frequently as needed.
  • People understand traffic lights (although there are times when I wonder!). Red means stop – green means go!
  • Thank goodness, indicators are less critical at traffic lights!

I don’t know how long it will be before the city is forced to install traffic lights, but, in my opinion, it is not a matter of if, but when. In the meantime, there will be a lot of very frustrated residents who will wonder why they did not take these things into consideration at the time.

Peter Jupp is a Covenant member and previous resident of England.

Editor’s Note: To discuss the issue of roundabouts, click on the link in the RSF Post Member Forum.

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