A modern roundabout is an unsignalized circular intersection engineered to maximize safety and minimize traffic delay. Over the last few decades, thousands of roundabouts have been installed in Europe, Australia and other parts of the world. Recently, they have gained support in the United States. And, more recently, New York is getting experience with their use and design.
Drivers are becoming comfortable with their use in the cities and towns where roundabouts have been built, and even where the public has been hesitant about accepting them initially roundabouts ultimately have been accepted enthusiastically because of the increased safety they provide along with traffic calming and aesthetic benefits.
Safety and operational performance
A major reduction in accidents: there is a reduction in the number of conflict points within the facility. A standard intersection has 32 potential vehicle-to-vehicle conflicts versus eight for a roundabout. The merging lanes that characterize traffic circles and lead to confusion over who has the right of way have been eliminated. Roundabouts are relatively small, particularly when compared with regular traffic circles, so traffic speeds are slower. There are more opportunities to enter circulating traffic, fewer accidents result, and delays are greatly reduced.
Navigating a roundabout
Motor vehicles: When approaching the roundabout, follow the lane designation signs and choose the proper lane for multilane approach roadways, slow down and yield to pedestrians in the cross walks.
Look to the left. Traffic already in the roundabout has the right of way.
Approach the yield line and enter the roundabout when there is an adequate gap in the circulating traffic flow. If another car is waiting at the yield line ahead of you, do not stop in the cross walk. Keep the cross walk clear. Bicyclists are permitted to ride within the roundabout and will be riding in the lane just as the other vehicles do, so do not pass a bicycle in the roundabout.
Exiting the roundabout: Once you have entered the roundabout, proceed counter-clockwise to your exit; you now have the right of way. As you approach your exit, turn on your right turn signal. Exit the roundabout, yielding to pedestrians in the cross walk.
Trucks: Drive on the circulatory roadway, except large trucks and trailers may use the truck apron provided to negotiate the tight turning radius. Drive usually with just the rear wheels on the raised pavement of the truck apron to navigate more easily. Cars should not use the truck apron.
Pedestrians: Stay on the designated walkways at all times. Cross only at the designated crosswalks, and never cross the central island. Watch for cars - you have the right of way. Your best protection is your own attention. Cross the crosswalk one lane at a time and stay in the island as a refuge area before crossing the next lane.
Bicyclists: Ride with traffic as though you are a vehicle, making sure to yield to traffic when you enter. Ride the speed of the circular roadway to discourage cars from passing you. If you are unsure about using the roundabout, walk your bike at the cross walks like pedestrians.
Here's hoping this article is informative and that traffic can flow smoothly and safely through our new and enhanced intersection.
For more information, look for answers in future articles.