Traffic Circles Stymie The Clueless

I am always pretty amazed when I’m in downtown Winooski,  Vermont these days.

In this image by Ben Sarle for the Burlington Free Press, Winooski City Manager Deac Decarreau watches vehicles in the city's traffic circle on a snowy day recently.

A few years ago, they redeveloped the small city’s downtown, and put in a large traffic circle to manage traffic. The circle is a little larger and more complicated than most, but it’s still pretty straight forward.

Still, people don’t get it. They go the wrong way, stop when they’re supposed to keep going, keep going when they’re supposed to stop, change lanes unpredictably, and cause general chaos.

Traffic engineers like roundabouts because they are more safe than intersections. Traditional four-way intersections have all these weird stops and starts and left turns and right turns that flummox people and have them crash into each other.

Roundabouts are safer on paper, anyway. Seems when the are really built, the human capacity to be extremely dumb or distracted or on Pluto seems to at least partly destroy the capacity of roundabouts to be a safe friend on the roadways.

It’s not just Vermont. I found the following video compilation of a traffic circle in Germany where people just weren’t getting it. The video will surely make you wince.

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One Response to “Traffic Circles Stymie The Clueless”

  1. Chris Says:

    I grew up in New Jersey, which was an early adopter of traffic circles in the 1920s (if I remember correctly). Winooski’s isn’t exactly a traffic circle since it has a signalled pedestrian crossing at two points, and an entrance/exit on the side that runs parallel to the circle. Also, Winooski calls it a “turning circle”, which is probably a better name, given its configuration.

    When I drive around the circle, the most annoying thing is people who stop to let other people through, which completely defeats the purpose. I know it comes from a good place, but still. Also, many people think that “yield” means “stop”, which it doesn’t. Especially coming from the Burlington side, it is pretty easy to see whether or not one needs to yield, but people always stop.

    As for the German video…egad! That is a badly designed traffic circle if there ever was one (the center should be raised to force people to drive in the circle). I wonder what the signage approaching it is, people clearly aren’t getting the message. I have driven in traffic circles/roundabouts in the UK and Ireland and when they are done right (National Lampoon’s European Vacation and The Simpsons go to England aside), they are beautiful traffic flow mechanisms.

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