back to article Silicon Valley roundabout has drivers in a spin

The United States are widely free from roundabout tyranny with only one for every 33,330 people. A good thing too because people passing by the city of Hollister, just south of Silicon Valley, can't seem to grok their new one. Mind you, this isn't your common-and-garden roundabout. This is a "turbo" roundabout, which, despite …

  1. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

    The United States are widely free from roundabout tyranny with only one for every 33,330 people. A good thing too because people passing by Hollister, just south of Silicon Valley, can't seem to grok their new one.

    Maybe they were too busy looking at the clothes?

  2. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

    Turbo Roundabouts

    As a UK inhabitant I am fully used to roundabouts in nearly all their forms.

    This Easter I was visiting The Netherlands and came across some of these with the lane dividers. First encounter was... eye opening.... not only do you have to go backwards (feature of driving on the right/wrong side of the road) but the lane dividers will punish you for poor lane discipline.

    On thinking about it, I come to the conclusion that a lot of UK roundabouts could do with the upgrade - if only to improve the default "I drive where I like, how I like" attitude of many UK motorists by taking out wheels and suspension...

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: Turbo Roundabouts

      I whole heartedly agree with your last paragraph and I'm sure you will get lots of upvotes for it :-)

    2. FIA Silver badge

      Re: Turbo Roundabouts

      I don't understand. The rules are fairly simple in the UK.

      If you're in a Range Rover with blacked out windows you drive where you like

      If you're in a Range Rover you give way to the above, but otherwise drive where you like

      If you're in a car give way to any range rover as they'll drive where they like but otherwise follow the car hierarchy (Audi* first... then everyone else)

      Taxis exist.. but you'll be constantly surprised how they're still moving and relatively undented as they also drive where they like.

      Box Junctions are a thing, but only if you think the lights won't change, otherwise you'd have to wait longer and who can be bothered with that. Screw others.

      'Keep Clear' is merely painted there to keep that bit of the road surface slightly more protected.

      If you see any vehicle with blue flashing lights forget everything you were ever taught and just wildly jam on your brakes. Doesn't matter where you are or what's around you. If you can aim to stop in the least convenient place possible more the better, as the driver of the ambulance will get to practice their 'stink eye' scowl at you.**

      * This used to be BMWs first, but it seems to have changed

      ** It's probably worth mentioning in the UK the general rule isn't just to stop as our roads are often quite narrow. I believe in the US, as roads tend to be larger, then the accepted approach is just to stop dead.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Turbo Roundabouts

        It's probably worth mentioning in the UK the general rule isn't just to stop as our roads are often quite narrow. I believe in the US, as roads tend to be larger, then the accepted approach is just to stop dead.

        Watch a few videos from the Chris Martin[0] Youtube channel, he's a response paramedic in the UK and it's good to see from his point of view what is good and bad driving.

        [0] Not Coldplay - I'm evil, but not that nasty...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Turbo Roundabouts

        "Taxis exist.. but you'll be constantly surprised how they're still moving and relatively undented as they also drive where they like."

        The one time I got knocked off my bike was by a taxi. I was cycling round the roundabout (in the correct lane, wearing bright yellow high viz on a nice sunny day!) . He just entered the roundabout without looking and drove straight into me... No bones broken, thank goodness.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Turbo Roundabouts

        "If you're in a Range Rover with blacked out windows"

        It's now a very long time since I drove in London but the last few times I did I remember thinking (probably somewhere like around Aldwych) "I wish I was in a very old, battered, obviously another dent wouldn't matter, Land Rover".

      4. Not Yb Bronze badge

        Re: Turbo Roundabouts

        In the US, in many states, the official rule is pull over to the right and slow down/stop, but don't block an intersection, or you can proceed with caution to get out of the way if there's not enough space for them to get around.

        In a traffic jam, mostly stopped, one driver I was behind moved over into the shoulder, when the police car was driving down the shoulder at a fairly good speed. They almost got hit. You wouldn't think "don't pull in front a police car that's moving at high speed when you're already mostly stopped" needed to be a rule, But common sense, uncommon, etc. etc.

      5. GruntyMcPugh

        Re: Turbo Roundabouts

        I assume everyone driving a Range Rover is a criminal.

    3. TheFifth

      Re: Turbo Roundabouts

      I agree that although the lane markers will punish those who don't pay attention, they are a great idea for enforcing lane discipline. Watching that video reveals how simple a roundabout should be if people would only navigate them properly.

  3. Caver_Dave Silver badge

    Attraction

    I was in the West of the US for a holiday a decade ago and our tour guide actually took us to a roundabout relatively near the Hover Dam. She was quite proud of being able to drive around it in the minibus.

    I agree the Magic Roundabout in Swindon takes some getting used to, but so long as you follow the normal rules and don't try to keep up with the locals, I've found it to be OK.

    1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

      Re: Attraction

      Did I really cross the Swindon roundabout in the 1970's? Anyway, the first time I encountered it, in very quiet conditions, we were across before I knew what I had encountered. It wasn't until the return trip at a busy time I was staggered at the reality that I had failed to absorb. However, it soon came to be a 'milepost' on a long journey across the country. Made a change from the usual 'pubs-with-interesting-names'.

      1. Not Yb Bronze badge

        Re: Attraction

        "The Magic Roundabout" would probably be a good pub name.

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: Attraction

          Headache guaranteed!

    2. TheFifth

      Re: Attraction

      I remember driving in Swindon back in the 90s and panicking as I saw the signpost for the Magic Roundabout up ahead with no way to turn off.

      After driving through it I couldn't work out what all the fuss was about. Follow the same rules as any roundabout and it works perfectly. I found it really simple to navigate. I'm sure the reputation comes from people over thinking rather than any inherent trickiness.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Attraction

        I think my father encountered the Magic Roundabout driving the us up to stay with family in Norfolk a fair few times & he was already way out of his comfort zone.

        When I lived, studied & worked in Swindon the tailbacks around & through the aforementioned roundabout in wet weather were horrendous if you went around it conventionally, once you get into the swing of driving it "unconventionally" you could zip through it & out again in seconds (Probably causing the stop\start tailbacks to worsen).

        I absolutely loved driving through it.

        Alas the urban legend that the designer was called Dougal was proven to be false.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Attraction

          "When I lived, studied & worked in Swindon the tailbacks around & through the aforementioned roundabout in wet weather were horrendous if you went around it conventionally, once you get into the swing of driving it "unconventionally" you could zip through it & out again in seconds (Probably causing the stop\start tailbacks to worsen)."

          I've heard similar stories about it. I only drove it the once, many years ago, and didn't really get my head around how it worked and you could go both way around it. I ended up going the "long" way around, treating as a very large roundabout. I'd probably have been fine on a second or third trip though.

          Edit: It was High Wycombe or Hemel Hempsted or something, probably Hemel since it was definitely two way around the central roundabout, not Swindon in my case. :-)

      2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Attraction

        "I'm sure the reputation comes from people over thinking..:"

        Good one! I'll use that the next time I do something stupid.

    3. Johnb89

      Re: Attraction

      High Wycombe has (or at least had, don't know) a magic roundabout as well, but doesn't seem to be as famous. I've occasionally wondered why. It was fun, not least because of the stonking long hill down to it... one could (hypothetically, of course) get up quite a speed.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Attraction

      "I was in the West of the US for a holiday a decade ago and our tour guide actually took us to a roundabout relatively near the Hover Dam. She was quite proud of being able to drive around it in the minibus."

      The oddest things can become tourist attractions, even if they may seem everyday things to visitors from other countries. A tour bus in Iceland makes a great thing of visiting a garden centre, of all places. I guess it must be the only on in the country or something but a bit weird especially to UK tourists :-)

  4. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Donkeys years ago there was a magic roundabout installed at Moor End, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

    For many years there had been a large roundabout at the confluence of six roads. It was decided to turn each of the six road junctions onto the original roundabout into six mini roundabouts and have two way traffic round the original roundabout.

    Utterly confusing and counter-intuitive. Until, that is, one realized the thing was just a tiny ring road with half a dozen roundabouts. No hard lane segregation though, just white lines.

    I've not been back there for ages now. I assume it's still there and on its original configuration.

    Update: based on images from Google Maps, it appears so. LINKY

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      There was, and presumably still is, one at the bottom of Marlow Hill in High Wycombe. It could usefully be applied to this one with plenty of space but still a bottleneck. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.669694,-1.826892,343m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en&entry=ttu

      But the Dutch design, even allowing for the ant-clockwise flow, looks horrendous.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Exactly, a roundabout isn't a special case that needs to be learnt: the same rules as for any other road apply. The circular bit of the roundabout is just like any road you are joining - the cars that are already on it have right of way over you. Leaving the roundabout is a change of lane so you indicate, unless the lane you're in is exclusively for leaving the roundabout.

      The first time I encountered the Magic Roundabout in Swindon it causes me no problem at all. The same rules apply whether you're on one of the satellite roundabouts or on the central one.

      I am only talking above about European roundabouts. I've been on one in Cambodia where cars go clockwise and mopeds go counterclockwise... I think because mopeds are treated as honary pedestrians? Clench what you need to clench and then do as the Romans do.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "the cars that are already on it have right of way over you"

        It's difficult to comprehend but that rule only came in about 1966 or 7 and before to that it was joining traffic had priority. Yes the results were as chaotic as you can imagine or even more so. Then it was reversed over a weekend quite easily as it made sense and the nightmare roundabout on my regular commute was transformed on the Monday. But you have to have been driving for nearly 60 years to remember it.

      2. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        There's a roundabout at the border of Thailand (drive on the left), and Laos (drive on the right).

        This is about as chaotic as you imagine as people attempt to negotiate the roundabout to get to the Correct lane for the other country.

        When we went through it was a quiet time, but still one of the craziest experiences I've had. We even managed to get through without any damage. But it was a close run thing...

      3. Orv Silver badge

        Part of the problem with roundabouts in the US is that yield signs have mostly been phased out here. People are just not used to situations where you yield to other traffic without stopping.

  5. Santa from Exeter

    Rubbish American driving

    I get that your average USAian is too stupid to work out how roundabouts function, but even Mythbusters proved that they keep the traffic flowing better than the ridiculous habit of putting traffic lights on everything (don't mention the brain dead 4-way stops).

    It would seem that 'The Land of the Free' just love being told when to stop and when to go.

    1. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

      Re: Rubbish American driving

      The five-light traffic lights are a sight to behold. I have not seen them anywhere else

    2. Philo T Farnsworth Bronze badge

      Re: Rubbish American driving

      I'm an American *and* a Californian, nay, a *Southern* California (albeit a transplant from the San Francisco Bay Area, aka Northern California) and I'm a big fan of roundabouts, especially versus traffic lights, which seem to be timed to maximize driver annoyance.

      Down here in the San Diego area there does seem to be a trend toward replacing lights and stop signs with roundabouts on what we call "surface streets" (i.e., anything other than the freeway system) and in personal experience they seem to work well.

      They nicely self-regulate and traffic flows steadily, as opposed to the fits and starts of 'signalized' intersections.

      I'm not sure how well a roundabout would work on a freeway interchange, particularly a merge of two major freeways (I-5 and I-805 down here, for instance -- a major horror show during commute hours and Dobbs forbid it should *rain* -- don't even think about it), so I'm definitely interested in what CalTrans is up to in the Silly Valley.

      I've only driven in the UK once, almost 20 years ago, and that mostly on glorified cow paths in Scotland, though I did drive on one motorway (I believe I have the terminology correct) between Glasgow and Edinburgh, nd encountered a couple of roundabouts that were a bit harrowing, mostly because I was driving on the "other" side of the road from what I'm used to. I suspect after a few weeks I would've gotten the hang of it.

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        Re: Rubbish American driving

        I visited a major US metropolitan city where they had installed micro-roundabouts in residential intersections as a "traffic calming" measure. Riding a bike through one, I was faced head-on by a pickup truck going the wrong way, its driver having ignored the "Keep Right" signs.

        Wanker.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Rubbish American driving

        Roundabouts work well - until they don't

        At about 98% full, they lock solid. This is why you'll see supplementary traffic lights around extremely busy ones - frequently doubling as pedestrian crossing lights

        It's also why a lot of busy roundabouts have "keep clear" markings to allow crossing traffic through when part of the roundabout is jammed up

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Rubbish American driving

          So roundabouts are like Ethernet, but with stop lights and a much-higher traffic saturation before unusability.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Rubbish American driving

        "(i.e., anything other than the freeway system)"

        Just for completeness, you'll never see a roundabout on a motorway or other "freeway equivalent" in the UK or (I assume) Europe either. The may be one below or above at junction (in fact there frequently are), but never on the actual motorway itself unless it's the end of the motorway, the final junction so to speak.

      4. katrinab Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Rubbish American driving

        20 years ago, it wasn’t a motorway all the way between Glasgow and Edinburgh. There was a bit in the middle that was the A8, with the M8 either side of it. The A8 but has now been upgraded to motorway standard so it is the M8 all the way.

        Doing a 90° turn onto the A8 section of the road if you want to go from eg Bellshill to Glasgow of that road was a pretty scary experience.

  6. pdh

    Design goals

    Here in Pennsylvania, the Department of Transportation has been installing roundabouts in the last few years. In every case that I know of, the locals complained after a few months when they noticed that the number of accidents was not decreasing. The DoT always replies that the goal isn't to reduce the actual number of accidents -- they concede that that number will probably be about the same as it was before the roundabout -- but to reduce the severity of accidents that do happen. And that does seem to be the case: there are still regular fender-benders, but fewer higher-speed crashes.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Design goals

      Here in Pennsylvania, the Department of Transportation has been installing roundabouts in the last few years. In every case that I know of, the locals complained after a few months

      To be fair to them, them new-fangled horseless carriages are pretty new...

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Design goals

      We have a few of them on the California Central Coast, where I live. They mostly work fine. People always grouse when a new one goes in. There were questions about how safe they were for emergency vehicles after a fire truck rolled over trying to negotiate one, killing a firefighter, but that seems to have been an isolated incident.

  7. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Falls at the first hurdle

    "Lower your speed and read the signs…" From casual observation I reckon this would exclude over 90% of all drivers!

    I quite like the design but I think the design moves the lane-changing risk from the roundabout to the feeder lanes and I think problems changing lanes are common in many accidents. It's therefore essential to be able to have another a go if (when) you make a mistake.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem I see with the "Turbo Roundabout" is that if once you pick a lane, you are stuck there. So if you don't know the area and you find yourself in the wrong lane, then you are going to be funneled onto the wrong road and will have to find somewhere to turn around.

    1. Dave K

      True, but the alternative is when you get people randomly cutting across a lane at the last second because they realise they've screwed up and promptly hitting the vehicle next to them. I can see the benefit of the turbo design from a safety perspective...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        SOP is to stay on the roundabout until you've worked out which exit you want.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          This is particularly effective you mistakenly approached in the right hand lane (UK version) & wanted to take first left. Of course it would be totally wrong to use this approach to bypass a long queue in the left hand lane,,,

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            But we've all done it...

            (at least once in a car which was overheating and would not have survived the queue to turn left. Turn right and keep going was therefore a mechanical necessity!)

        2. Orv Silver badge

          In a Turbo Roundabout you may not be allowed to do a full rotation, depending on the lane you picked.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Like the Kölner Ring…

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      I think speed control is an essential corollary as is making sure the damn satnav understands the system. Everybody hates speed restrictions but in any situation where lane-changing is required, they demonstably improve throughput and reduce the risk of accidents: 5 mins at 30 km/h or 2 mins at 80 km/h followed by an hour at 5 km/h!

  9. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Ah, I see the problem:

    1: Slow down and read the signs

    I aint gonna have no guvmit telling me what to do!

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Not all a bed of roses

    The thing that really annoys me is when they put traffic lights on roundabouts - totally destroys the flow. There are quite a few I know of in Kent, and in every case I've seen the improvement when they traffic lights are out of action for some reason.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not all a bed of roses

      depends on the roundabout some work well with lights. The other pain is when perfectly good roundabouts get REPLACED by lights. On my old commute route in Devonport Plymouth there were a couple of junctions close to each other that did have two mini roundabouts and everything just worked. The council decided to replace this with two sets of traffic lights, quite often you now sit there for 30 sec or more on a red light with sod all traffic coming in any other direction!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Not all a bed of roses

        Also Ashton-under-Lyne except they weren't mini-roundabouts, one had a BT exchange in the middle of it. I find that once a queue of traffic has built up it's impossible to work out the correct lane because the only indication are the signs painted on the road and those are now obscured.

        1. gryphon

          Re: Not all a bed of roses

          I think any time there are direction arrows on the road they should be repeated a good few metres behind at the side of the road. Preferably both sides if at all possible since trucks always obscure.

          It's always a nightmare if you don't know an area and the road arrows go left turn in left lane to straight on on rights, then left or straight on in left and straight on in right etc.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Not all a bed of roses

          "the only indication are the signs painted on the road and those are now obscured."

          Similar on the northern side of the York ring road. Single lane, but at each roundabout it splits into two lanes, seemingly randomly allocating one for the straight ahead and the other left or right, eg left only and right/straight ahead or maybe left/straight ahead and right only. Except when it's busy and the road markings are obscured and the lane signs are half way down the two lane stretch. :-)

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Not all a bed of roses

      I think several accident blackspots led to the mixed design with lights introduced essentially to enforce speed restrictions. IIRC there is data around the number of vehicles using the junctions at peak times suggesting whether you can get away with no traffic management, a roundabout, one with lights, multiple systems of lights. I grew up watching major changes to the junction of Princess Parkway and Barlow Moor Road and the end of the Mancunian Way in Manchester. Accident rates increased with traffic volumes so changes were necessary. But I think the data also shows that mini roundabouts (the ones you can drive over) are worse than having nothing.

  11. The answer is 42

    What roundabout?

    Many decades ago (when we had PROPER winters) our family returned to the UK after many years living in West Germany. THe last (and only) proper winter was 1962/63. My father was driving from Portsmouth to somewhere in the Midlands in a white-out and the conversation went something like-

    Son, which way round the last roundabout did I go?

    Son- The right, as usual-

    Father looks at son and says "we will have to watch out for those"

    Yes, Dad...

  12. AVee

    Why start at level two?

    It seems rather silly to me to have your first roundabout be a more complicated turbo roundabout. Being Dutch I wouldn't give this a second thought, but if you've never seen any roundabout in your live this one is rather complex. They should have started at level one with a few normal roundabout and only do the complicated ones once drivers are used to those. Get the whole 'going round' concept in there first.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Why start at level two?

      Yeah, I watched the video, and if I ran into this thing, I would definitely fuck it all up in a massive way.

      And I do know some people in mall crawler trucks that would consider it a challenge to go straight across.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Why start at level two?

        There are ways of......discouraging...... such behaviour, Most of them will result in anyone attempting this manouvre staying on the central island unless they hit it at highway speeds, but those speeds won't be maintained on the other side

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Why start at level two?

          It all depend on what altitude you attain.

          And it not just a UK thing either :-) That Polish guy really "got some air".

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Why start at level two?

        I've seen people in the US change roads like that… down one verge and up the next… And a look at the statistics tells us that the US, despite being relatively sparsely populated, has more than its fair share of smash ups. In general I find driving in the US more relaxing that Europe with most drivers giving each other enough room. Except when traffic gets busy…

  13. Dom 3

    Doesn't work here either:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-65310167

  14. cleminan

    No way around

    Interrupting two express roads to whack a roundabout in there feels like the planners don't understand the concept fully.

    On a UK road (and any European one I've encountered) this would be a three level interchange, like J25 on the M1. It would at least be a two level junction; allowing the primary road's traffic to flow for vehicles not changing to the other road, reducing congestion.

    The turbo concept seems flawed too. Roundabouts allow you to keep going round until you've found your exit. Here, aside from the middle lane, you're on rails as soon as your enter the junction.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: No way around

      There's a satellite image of the silly thing available on Google Maps at 36.8955741,-121.4285 In the satellite image, it looks like a component from the drivetrain of a blender or food processor or maybe part of a Hydrogen fusion chamber. It's probably horribly confusing to drive through. I'm not 100% against LARGE (multiple lane) rotaries provided the signage is clear and adequate. But I think in this case, a conventional cloverleaf junction would likely have been a better choice. The problem I would foresee with junctions like this is that one confused driver (plenty of those I'd guess) in this thing at rush hour is probably an invitation to one or more fender bending accidents and a thorough shambles as the drivers stop and attempt to exchange insurance information. And towing a damaged vehicle out of it .... Now there's a challenge.

      1. Not Yb Bronze badge

        Re: No way around

        Conventional cloverleaf would probably take more space, the angles are a bit weird, too.

  15. xyz Silver badge

    Ha Roundabouts...

    Do you have speed bumps yet? They are really fun. Smart motorways are a thing too.

  16. Big_Boomer

    Dumbf@cks

    Dumbf@cks gonna dumbf@ck no matter where you are in the world. It seems that a much higher proportion of the population now falls into that category and that goes for traffic planners just as much as drivers and other road users. They recently changed the law in the UK to allow dumbf@cks to drive all the way around the outside of a roundabout to turn right, and the only reason for that change I can think of is so that they don't have to prosecute the dumbf@cks for their dumbf@ckery. Another pet hate of mine are roundabouts that are offset or of varying radius, but the worst by far are the idiocy that is roundabouts with traffic lights. What a total f@cking waste of space and time those are. If the junction has that much traffic then you need to start bypassing it with slip-roads or better yet stop putting all the business parks together in one place. Here, every morning 15million cars fight their way out of over-crowded housing estates (subdivisions for the 'Merkins) drive 10-15 miles, and then fight their way into over-crowded business parks. What an utter waste of time and resources.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Dumbf@cks

      Username checks out.

      1. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: Dumbf@cks

        Yeah, much more knowledge and experience accumulated than those dumb ass millennials.

  17. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

    Meanwhile in Michigan (metro north of Detroit)

    We've had a multi-lane roundabout for years. No dividers -- I wish there were, because there are occasionally some nasty weavers -- but it's helped a bit. The worst part is the lower-right exit feeds a freeway which backs up during evening rush hour, which can bring the whole circle to a halt. Big G maps link (satellite)

    The county this is in, and its neighbor to the west, have been putting in smaller roundabouts also. Map link to a pair just east of the big one that solved quite the nasty gridlock caused by a short bottleneck between two traffic lights.

    Like others say, it may not help collisions -- not everyone gets the idea, the elderly especially -- but they really do help with overall flow.

    Detroit is still the "Motor City," and in this aspect we're appears we're ahead of California's "car culture" -- as long as you watch out for "dem dere udder guys" (as my dad says in a Yooper* accent) you'll be okay motoring on through! (*He's from Minnesota, not Michigan's U.P., but the dialect is similar, both halfway to Backwoods Canadian. You keep your stick on the ice and your car in your lane.)

  18. martinusher Silver badge

    They're more common than you think

    I've seen plenty of large ones in New England but they're not roundabouts in the 'bump in the middle of the road' sense but intersections of major roads out in the country where one-way traffic forms a roundabout through the woods.

    We actually have these 'bumps in the road' in our city and people seem OK with them. The confusion may have arisen because our traffic laws tried to push the old French 'priority to the right' thing where traffic on the roundabout has to give way to traffic entering it. Its dumb, especially with smaller roundabouts. Once everyone got the idea that you give way to traffic on the circle (that's what they're called here -- 'traffic circles') then they just work and even start to become popular.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: They're more common than you think

      Traffic circles used to refer to the older "rotary"(*) style, with yield markings on the circle itself (give way to traffic entering)

      These were an utter disaster and are why roundabouts were knee-jerk rejected my american traffic planners for decades

      (*) Yes, there's a difference between rotaries and roundabouts

  19. Orv Silver badge

    The important thing about roundabouts is they're loads of fun on a motorcycle.

  20. Kev99 Silver badge

    That's what happens when real drivers education is no longer offered but is replaced by operator instruction.

  21. Joe Gurman

    People in the UK may sneer

    ....at the vast majority of US drivers who have never seen a roundabout, traffic circle, or rotary (as they're called in Massachusetts, where I grew up), but I dar any UK driver to try driving (keeping to the right, mind) a Boston-area rotary with unsweaty clothes and dry pants. While state law humorously insists that vehicles entering the rotary have the right of way [*], the actual practice is even simpler than the UK hierarchy outlined by FIA, above: simply assume the vehicle you are driving in a Range Rover with heavily tinted windows and once you muscle your way into the rotary, _you_ always have right of way. Put another way, whoever gets there first has the right of way. Miraculously (or maybe not so, since human beings tend to get used to almost anything), there are very few accidents in those rotaries.

    During a sojourn in France some decades ago, I learned that the driver entering from the right (pretty much anywhere, including rond-points) always has the right of way.... unless the intersection is signed otherwise — which is why nearly every rond-point through which I had to navigate every day was festooned with "Vous n'avez pas la priorité" signs confronting anyone trying to enter the rond-point. Not that it made much difference in the drivers' behavior.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: People in the UK may sneer

      "above: simply assume the vehicle you are driving in a Range Rover with heavily tinted windows and once you muscle your way into the rotary, _you_ always have right of way. Put another way, whoever gets there first has the right of way."

      I'll see you your multi lane rotary amd raise you the Arc De Triomph in Paris (France, not Texas :-))

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: People in the UK may sneer

      Rotary = give way to traffic entering

      Roundabout = entering traffic gives way

      Traffic circle = generic but usually something with lots of entries/exits and varying rules

  22. DS999 Silver badge

    I live in a city of a little over 100K

    Including suburbs, in the US midwest. We have over a dozen roundabouts around here, but they are almost all near schools. Traffic is moving slower because its in a school zone, but it is more efficient than four way stops and it isn't worth putting in a traffic light when things are busy for maybe an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, on school days only.

    Trying to do your first roundabout in a higher traffic higher speed area seems stupid to me. People who are unfamiliar with the concept are going to be confused at first, and even though we have a bunch of them you still occasionally see people come to a stop before entering when they don't need to. But they work a lot better (and people here complain about them a lot less) than when the first couple appeared 20 years ago. These Silicon Valley guys should have put a few in lower traffic areas, like near schools, to get people used to them before they tried the "turbo roundabout" as their first one!

    Our next new thing to get used is the diverging diamond interchange. We have one up and another being built. They take a little getting used to but they are an improvement. But anything new always annoys some people.

    1. Not Yb Bronze badge

      Re: I live in a city of a little over 100K

      The TXDoT (Texas Department of Transportation) offices are close-ish to where I live, but since the legislators don't want them to do the interesting road intersections in Austin, they happen closer to me.

      We have intersections where there are 6 lanes, in the pattern of 2 west, 2 east, 2 west. At a few points these major lanes cross over each other for turns. Fun for everyone, including the large truck that ignored the lights and almost got hit.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I live in a city of a little over 100K

      "it isn't worth putting in a traffic light"

      The town where I was born replaced most traffic lights with roundabouts in the 1980s and crash rates dropped over 90%

      Make of that what you will but there's a reason that one of the national laws is that a traffic light intersection reverts to roundabout rules if the lights fail

  23. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    No requirements to drive

    The Silicon Valley area has virtually zero traffic enforcement. There's no incentive to know how to drive or even keep eyes off the cellphone. Many cities have dealt with this by putting red traffic lights at every single intersection, with the belief that people run red lights less frequently than stop signs. "No turn on red" is a new one, though people ignore them or even steal the signs.

    There's an obvious solution to all of this mess that involves simply enforcing traffic rules, but no. Cites are choking traffic flows to cut down on fatalities, while more drivers run red lights to compensate for lost time. It's being left up to the insurance companies to sort out.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: No requirements to drive

      > There's an obvious solution to all of this mess that involves simply enforcing traffic rules

      The obvious solution is fewer cars!

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: No requirements to drive

        That goes hand in hand with better public transport - anaethma to legislators who've been paid off by automotive interests for decades (Think: Jaywalking laws and their origins)

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: No requirements to drive

      "There's an obvious solution to all of this mess that involves simply enforcing traffic rules, but no. Cites are choking traffic flows to cut down on fatalities, while more drivers run red lights to compensate for lost time. It's being left up to the insurance companies to sort out."

      All this damned new technology is to blame. There were never any problems before traffic lights and a traffic cop was stationed in the middle of the junction waving his/her arms at the passing traffic :-)

  24. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    Roundabouts rock

    and not just the Yes song... I lived in NL for decades, and I love roundabouts! Every other intersection had one! There's one near where I live now in the US, in a very small town, nobody knows how to use it!? People were stopping when the roundabout was empty... I even survived the double and triple ring roundabouts in France, but then again, I cut my teeth driving on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Chicago lane change anyone? Bonus points if you've done it!

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
      Thumb Up

      Re: Roundabouts rock

      Upvote for Yes. And Chicago -- once when visiting (whole family in the car), I did a nasty lane change while trying to get on to Lake Shore Drive from near the John Hancock Center.

  25. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

    What a design failure...

    This would not be allowed in Germany. Three lanes to choose from when entering, and then no way to correct an error? You have to cross a roundabout lane to make 270°? The standard one-lane roundabout would have been the right choice, and include an extra outer-lane for those which use the first exit.

    Take this German example, or this German example. There are possibly a lot more and better examples, but I know those two nearby personally, and I like that "if you have to use the first exit, aka wanna go right, you can bypass the roundabout" method. Anything else gets too complex for people not familiar with that. And even if you miss the bypass since you don't know the area, you can still take the right exit.

  26. tekHedd

    US roundabout markings

    Well, the one and only repeatably proven feature of roundabouts is that they slow traffic. Which is a good thing, I assume. As if the traffic on these roads could go any slower.

    The worst thing about roundabouts (aside from reliably killing road bikers, OK fine: TWO proven features...) the worst thing about roundabouts in the US, IMO, is that they don't just install simple roundabouts with "here are some lanes going in a circle, go around it until you find your exit". Instead they put up a bunch of signage with very complex rules about exactly which lane can exit at which exits. These rules are different at every roundabout, and are almost never the same as the default rule. Which about half of the drivers don't know. Yes, I know: it's simple: drivers in the roundabout have the right of way... please somebody explain how this is difficult to understand? But, apparently, this is, and it's *not* helping people to learn this, when they think that every roundabout must be marked at every turn from every direction.

    It's nearly impossible to read the signs while you're driving, and of course the lane markings are underneath a layer of cars. Most of it is only visible after it's much too late to change to another lane, and a significant percentage of the drivers ignore the instructions anyway. It's the stuff of nightmares.

    Honestly, I think they're mostly installing them because they are trendy. "It's from Europe!"

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: US roundabout markings

      > Well, the one and only repeatably proven feature of roundabouts is that they slow traffic. Which is a good thing, I assume. As if the traffic on these roads could go any slower.

      Well, it is still faster than standing at a traffic light, isn't it? When done right and not in such an insane way that you need a hour log video plus a simulator and certificate before entering, it works wonders.

      > the worst thing about roundabouts in the US, IMO, is that they don't just install simple roundabouts

      Depends! There are a lot more simple roundabouts than weird ones. But the insane get all the publicity! Wait, are we talking about politics now?

      > Honestly, I think they're mostly installing them because they are trendy. "It's from Europe!"

      Well, IMHO no. They are installing those insane version 'cause "We copy Europe, but we have to prove we are superior no matter what!".

  27. mjflory
    Stop

    Four directions, five lights

    I was amused to read that there were supposedly three roundabouts in the US in the 90s. We have three surrounding Prospect Park here in Brooklyn and nothing is that new here. The little one at the south end of the park https://maps.app.goo.gl/B7Byh27bLrs9EaJ78 is a special aggravation. New York, in its neverending quest to bring traffic to a halt, has installed five traffic lights within the circle, with a few more just outside it. If you're lucky you can hit three red lights in one turn around the circle. There are no lane dividers, so the usual direction to drive is diagonally. But it will all be OK, as they are set to further lower speed limits citywide soon.

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