August 2, 2013

"This legislation ensures that local communities have a say in the roundabout process..."

"... and ensures that Madison bureaucrats — many of whom will never use the roundabouts they design — cannot trample on the voice of those who will actually navigate these roadway projects."

Republican legislator, quoted in a Treehugger post titled "Roundabout Rage in Wisconsin," which insinuates that conservatives oppose roundabouts because they're French.

Here's the Wikipedia article on roundabouts. Excerpt:
Numerous circular junctions existed before the advent of roundabouts, including the Bath Circus world heritage site completed in 1768, the 1907 Place de l'Étoile around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the 1904 Columbus Circle in Manhattan, and several circles within Washington, D.C., however, the operating and entry characteristics of these circles differs considerably from modern roundabouts.... Contrary to modern roundabouts, its centre originally was intended partly as a traffic island for pedestrians....
And here's that Yes tune.


SteveR said...

insinuates that conservatives oppose roundabouts because they're French

That evidence and $1.17 will get you a medium coffee at McDonalds.

bpm4532 said...

I'd think that conservatives would be for round-a-bouts as they seem to be a free-market, open-source solution to traffic control while liberals would be for stop-lights because of their command-and-control, authoritarian mode of traffic control.

HJA said...

And here's that XTC song, if you're interested -

Mitch H. said...

Roundabout was about the traffic circles? Somehow I doubt that. But then, Yes songs were generally pretty damn cryptic, when they weren't obviously about esoteric Hindu theology.

David-2 said...

I don't know how it is in Madison, but here in Seattle - I shudder to think of getting into a roundabout with my fellow Pacific Northwest drivers.

A "magic-roundabout" as described in that Wikipedia article would be a the site of deadly crashes on a daily basis, many local drivers not even being able to figure out which car goes next at a 4-way stop.

(I myself grew up and learned to drive in Los Angeles - my driving ability is top rung - but sadly, native Seattlites are not such good drivers. Typically, however, they're all ahead of me, and slow!)

Donald Douglas said...

Well, I love "roundabouts," although that's not what we called them when I was a kid.

I grew up in Orange, California, famous for the Old Town Center built around the downtown traffic circle. That's what we called it, the "Orange Circle." For years we lived just blocks from the Circle. My parents taught at Chapman College, now Chapman University, which is just North of the Circle. A roundabout like that, especially with all the historic buildings and such (like one of the oldest remaining soda fountains in the U.S.) definitely slows things down. I don't ever remember a traffic accident, although sometimes people drive too fast.

Long Beach also has a traffic circle, and that's what they call it, a "circle." So, roundabouts. Meh. They're fine. But perhaps city governments should think twice about how a roundabout can be used to improve local cityscapes, etc.

Inga said...

I detest those round abouts, not because they are French though.

Ann Althouse said...

Michelle Dulak Thomson has left a new comment on your post ""This legislation ensures that local communities h...":

"David-2, the whole point of roundabouts is that they're a great deal more intuitive and less crash-inducing than a four-way stop. Four-way stops are an incredibly stupid, kludgy way of managing an intersection of roads with two-way traffic. That goes double for intersections with more than four inlets/outlets. The rules in a roundabout (which I thought was strictly British lingo; in CA they were "traffic circles") are very simple and very clear. "

Rick Caird said...

I am just returning from a vacation in Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is filled with roundabouts. They work very well.

One of the locals mentioned that before the roundabout, she might have to wait 5 minutes to pull out into traffic. Roundabouts, by their vary nature, provide opportunities to enter traffic.

In one spot they have 2 roundabouts that are maybe 50 yards apart. Roundabouts are superior to a bunch of stop lights.

David-2 said...

Michelle: I understand that that's the theory. But I don't believe it. Nobody in Los Angeles when I was growing up had trouble with stop signs. (Except, of course, the concept of coming to a full stop, giving rise to the "California stop". But those aren't traffic hazards, they are just a revenue generator for the city.)

I think it is the driver. There are Los Angeles drivers, and then there are Seattle drivers.

And then there are Boston drivers. I lived for several years in Boston, there are several roundabouts in Cambridge. It is shocking to consider how callous the Massachusetts Department of Transportation was to hire the kind of sociopath to be their traffic engineer who would think it a good idea to place a roundabout anywhere a Boston driver could get to it.

roadgeek said...

We called them traffic circles growing up in Orange, Texas. Texas used to be dotted with them, but they fell out of favor and were gradually replaced. My hometown had a fine one, with palm trees on the island, at the junction of three major highways. Gone now, replaced a few years ago by some of those kludgy stoplights, which means that it now takes far longer to negotiate the intersection than it ever did before.

Waco still has one; apparently it doesn't get enough use to justify replacement.

David said...

This local control thing in Wisconsin could get out of hand. Next thing you know, local communities might get back a say on whether they have wind farms. (The Democrats took that away several years ago.)

Actually, roundabouts work, even though people seem to detest them.

So does Democracy. Give it a try, lefties.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Hmmm. Ann, what did I do wrong that the other commenters did right? Or did I just hit you during dinnertime?

Firehand said...

I am reminded of a gentleman in Florida who, after his city put a bunch of these in, bought a truck.

So that when he ran over the things, he didn't damage the undercarriage.

Big Mike said...

@Michelle Dulak Thomson, we have traffic circles by the dozens in Washington, DC. I haven't been hit in one yet, but I've had some close calls. They might be "intuitive" and from a theoretical perspective they might be "less crash-inducing." But based on reality I regard them as pretty dangerous.

wildswan said...

In Europe they have different rules about roundabouts. There you are supposed to stay on the inside lane of the circle until you pass the street before the street you are going to turn into. When everyone knows this, then roundabouts work well. Everyone moves smoothly in and out of the inner lane and everyone in the outer lane is going to turn right at the next available street. It is easier than 4-way stops on a busy road.

But the Arizona picture shows everyone staying on the outside lane as usually happens in America. We don't have European roundabout rules of order. There are so many people driving in unfamiliar roads in America all the time that we can't expect people to follow the European rules. Who knows when their road is coming up? If they had to stay in the inner lane till they figured that out they'd be circling round and round, I guarantee you. So Michella Dulak Thompson, I don't agree that roundabouts are better than 4-way stops in America. I think a four way stop would be faster most of the time and also it gives you a chance to sit and read the street signs.

Ann Althouse said...

@michelle it was entirely me, hitting the wrong button. I have the comments in the email though and can salvage them when I screw up like that.

LYNNDH said...

'FRENCH'? Have you never been to England? That's where I have encountered them. We have some in Colo. too. I like them.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

" three of the top five intersections in Madison with the most accidents are roundabouts"

I live near one of these, on the west side of Madison. I think they are ok, but take getting used to. There are times when I have the right of way, but have my doubts that the other guy knows that. I have at times gone around more than once just to be sure the coast is clear.

rehajm said...

Unlike with traffic signals, there's no way to adjust traffic capacity at a rotary. Once you exceed a critical level you end up with gridlock. Ask anyone who's driven in Eastern Massachusetts. You wouldn't wish them on your worst enemy.

Another thing I notice- many of the new ones have tight radius circles begging to be clogged by a long semi.

surf-ed said...

They work great in my section of a big city in the South. Love them. Traffic keeps flowing and they act as a natural way to slow down traffic flow.

Fritz said...

We got a roundabout installed in the big town of St. Leonard, MD a few years ago. I was skeptical at first, but it works surprisingly well. It forces people to slow down instead of blowing through at high speed, but doesn't interfere with normal traffic much. I approve.

I do recall some of the local teenagers going around 2-3 times just for fun (it's kind of slow here) when it was new, and a few people will never learn not to stop, but overall, a good idea.

David-2 said...

Firehand said...
I am reminded of a gentleman in Florida who, after his city put a bunch of these in, bought a truck.

So that when he ran over the things, he didn't damage the undercarriage.

Which reminds me ... some of the best foreign phrases are for traffic related items. Cases in point:

a) Aubergine

b) Sleeping Policeman

I collect these. I would be glad if you could add to my collection.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

David-2 took a swing at Boston drivers but I must protest. I think we do a pretty good job with what we have to work in the way of cow paths turned into roads and our infernal rotaries.

Now it's true that the car in the rotary has the right of way, but the car entering the rotary has the superior position. Rotaries become much easier to maneuver once you understand that very basic fact.

What unnerves a great many visitors to Boston is that as you approach the rotary, the cars in it accelerate. They have to do that in order to exercise their right of way over your superior position. You're used to the notion that cars coming up on on your left have to yield to you, but in the rotary they don't.

Then, once you are in the rotary, you have to make an aggressive move to get out. If you show any hesitancy, as nervous out-of-towners are prone to do, the other drivers will take that as your signalling them to go ahead.

Roundabouts are supposed to be better designed than rotaries, so that cars entering actually have to slow down, which takes away some of the positional advantage. But they still suffer the problem of unnaturally yielding to the car on the left.

Another instance of yielding to the car on your left in Boston is the freeway right to exit. No matter how many lanes of traffic you have to cross, your right to take your exit has priority.

A similar notion applies to turning left onto a busy street at a cross street intersection without any traffic signals. It can be a long wait for the traffic to clear in both directions, so in Boston after you have waited a reasonable length of time, you can just go.

You should of course wait for a hole in the traffic in the near lane, then just pull out, which may have the effect of momentarily blocking the near lane until the opposite lane is open.

Finally there is the Boston left turn at a traffic light. If you are at the front of the line at the light, you can make your left turn in front of the oncoming traffic by accelerating into the intersection as soon as the light turns green. If you can anticipate the light change by a half a second, so much the better. It's a very small inconvenience to the oncoming traffic, but a very great time saver to you and to any cars that would otherwise be trapped behind you.

Now in all of these cases, what Boston drivers are doing is giving the right of way to the vehicle on the left. In other words, Boston drivers have achieved a Coasian solution in the face of a suboptimal allocation of the right of way under the official rules of the road.

Now as to why having to yield to drivers on the left would especially annoy conservatives, that's rather obvious, isn't it?

Gabriel Hanna said...

I like roundabouts. They take up a lot more space than an intersection does, however. Fortunately there are large parts of America we are not using.

Satchmo said...

commenting on the sit post=
Meade, your voice is not effective. Your cadence is wrong when you command. And it is a command, esp in training ( not the case with Zeus, who has an education already, such as it is).
You cannot lilt. Your "sit" sounds like a question, it just confuses Abby. Command. Don't request. They aren't human, it won't be insulting, quite the contrary. Your authority will reassure.

There's lot's more, but that's a start.

kimsch said...

I've noticed a lot of roundabouts north of the border in Kenosha, Racine, and Milwaukee Counties. I haven't been west yet this year, but I'm sure there are some there too. Here in Lake County, Illinois we're getting roundabouts too. They really allow traffic to flow better, no stop signs, no traffic signals.

Hubby and I honeymooned in England and Ireland, and we loved the roundabouts there - even though some were not much more than a slightly raised hump in the middle of an intersection.

Saint Croix said...

Roundabouts are big in Savannah, been there for years and years, in the historic district. Savannah has a lot of tourists who want to see the old buildings, churches, etc. There are usually mini-parks in the middle of the roundabouts, with statues and park benches. It's really pretty and nice. It's slow driving, you're going to go about 25 miles an hour.

Savannah also has, next to the roundabouts, a bunch of one-way streets where you can zoom home at 45 miles an hour.

The only other roundabout I've seen was in Italy where people were driving like maniacs around that damn circle.

Terry said...

I think Wildswan has it right with her comment 'There are so many people driving in unfamiliar roads in America all the time that we can't expect people to follow the European rules.'
I live in Hawaii. We don't have traffic circles. I spent two weeks in Western Wisconsin in July. I hit a traffic circle on Hwy 8, by St. Croix Falls. It was not a relaxing moment.
I suppose the idea looked great in Powerpoint.

Titus said...

They are huge here in Boston and they are called rotaries.

sykes.1 said...

When I was growing up in MA, they were called rotaries. They work well where traffic is light because you don't have to slow down and pretend to stop at stop signs.

If you like rotaries, there is another MA invention from my youth: three lane highways. The third, middle lane, is for passing. Muy fun.

FleetUSA said...

When we moved to England in the 70's the English had many "roundabouts" (their term) and the French ridiculed them (despite having the largest (& most thrilling one to drive IMO) at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris). But now you find roundabouts all over France too.

They really help move traffic along.

Bob_R said...

I grew up in NJ where "traffic circles" were common 40 years ago. They don't do well with high volumes of traffic, so they have been done away with there. Last year we had one put in here in Blacksburg, VA, and there are more on the way. People objected of course, but it seems to have worked pretty well. I like it a lot. Really speeds the flow during normal traffic. (I never go downtown on football Saturdays, so I don't know how it works with heavier traffic.)

One of the difficult points is that roundabouts are MEANT to make people feel uneasy so that they drive defensively. The data I've read (which admittedly doesn't cover all cultures and all traffic conditions) seems to indicate a significant reduction in accidents.

Tank said...

Driving in Ireland on the "wrong" side of the road was pretty exciting. The traffic circles (as we call them here in NJ) were the most exciting part. Left turns too. Roundabouts tend to slow down traffic, which is good, if you want that.

Dewave said...

Roundabouts are amazing. Every red light in the nation on a one or two lane road should be torn down and replaced with roundabouts.

Recently, over fierce opposition (they're too European and too complicated!) three roundabouts were installed near us in Loudon County, replacing red lights. They have dramatically decreased the time it takes to navigate down that road.

Additionally, you are less likely to get Tboned by someone running a red light at full speed in a round about.

They were so successful now we are seeing two new roundabouts installed nearby. I'm a huge fan. They are much better than traffic lights (which teach drivers to just numbly observe a couple tiny lights instead of actually watching the roads) and 4 way stop signs - who can ever remember who is supposed to go next?

jaed said...

There's a roundabout near where I live that's almost gotten me clobbered multiple times. If you want to go straight, that's two very fast lane changes - there are about 20 feet from the point where you can merge into the outer lane to the point where you must switch to the inner lane to avoid turning right, and then a couple of seconds later you must switch lanes again to the newly-merged outer lane so that you can merge with the right-turning cross traffic.

Two merges and two fast lane changes in one intersection. Somehow, the "relaxing" and "safe" qualities elude me.