The Magic Roundabout

Round and round it goes
Round and round it goes

– Spandau Ballet

I recently heard a startling The Magic RoundaboutNPR report on Roundabouts in the USA.

The report highlights that, over the past decade, the number of roundabouts in the U.S. has increased dramatically, from the low hundreds up to the thousands. Traffic circles (as roundabouts are known Stateside) clearly cut down on commute time and pollution.

Traffic engineers in Los Angeles estimate that at just one intersection

…more than 100 hours of cars just sitting there wasting gas will be saved every day after the retrofit. That calculates to a reduction in tens of thousands of pounds of greenhouse gases every year.

So, with improved traffic flow equaling less wasted time and less pollution, what’s not to like about roundabouts?

Plenty, it seems to some.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

NPR reports that roundabout projects have been defeated all over the U.S. by people who think they’re dangerous. LA resident Isabella McNeil’s comments are typical:

“Oh my gosh, I see people literally like, there’s nothing there, they just keep going, and I’m stuck going, ‘Uh, I think it was your turn to yield?’ ”

An educational campaign that communicates the advantages of roundabouts seems key to overcoming American resistance to changing their approach to intersections from stop and go to going with the flow.

I’ve blogged before about the peculiar aversion to clotheslines exhibited by many Americans. Add an aversion to roundabouts together with a love of green jelly as a side dish to a Turkey Dinner at Thanksgiving and you have a unique trifecta of likes and dislikes in the Land of the Free.

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A Wonderful blog

I have also written about this. It highlights to me two things. One, that the culture in North America is a low-trust one in which the government says that we do not trust you to make the right decision so we have to take control and tell you when you can and cannot mke your own decision on what is best to do. The other is that we do not care enough to take the time to provide appropriate training for drivers to use these time, cost, environmental impact and stress reducers. We (the government and agencies) know best and will (paternalistically) look after you and keep you uneducated and fearful.

Good points, Joe. There’s a curious contradiction between the “don’t fence me in” cowboy mentality and a willingness to meekly sit waiting for the light to turn green.

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