Mythbusters take on the dreaded roundabout

Posted by Kromey at 1:31pm Oct 10 '13
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Growing up in America, roundabouts are those things crazy Europeans have. Here in America, we use sensible stop signs and traffic lights.

Now, I happened to be working at my university's Facilities Services (the department responsible for power, water, the roads, etc. on campus) when they were putting in their first roundabout. I got to talking about it with one of the roads guys (we called 'em "roadies", but never to their faces), and he was saying the reason for roundabouts is that they're a helluva lot safer, especially compared to using stop signs when you've got both vehicle and foot traffic as our campus does.

He showed me something that was basically this:
Points of conflict in roundabout versus 4-way stop
Each dot represents a "point of conflict" between vehicles on the road -- only 8 on the roundabout, but a whopping 36 on the four-way.

His image also included this however:
Pedestrian/vehicle points of conflict
An additional 16 vehicle/pedestrian "points of conflict" on the four-way, compared to a mere 8 on the roundabout.

Roundabouts also make intersections that aren't at 90-degree angles more sane and safer, and the one they were putting in happened to be one straight road with a pair of converging roads both on the south side of the straight one -- it was an ugly intersection that really desperately needed fixing already!

ANYWAY, that's not the point of this post. I just saw a clip where the Mythbusters heard something different about roundabouts: They're more efficient for moving large volumes of traffic through an intersection.

Now, there's certainly places around here where roundabouts have gone in in recent years where this seems to be the case, but those are typically where traffic crossing a major road has stop signs, while said major road does not -- [private] and I are thrilled that the intersection behind and between the Fred Meyer and the Wal-Mart now has a roundabout!

Well, here's what the Mythbusters found when they tested the relative efficiency of each:

C'mon, America, why aren't we using more of these???

As a sidenote, I simply do not comprehend multi-lane roundabouts. At all. How does that even work??

Before the hatemail starts pouring in, I realize Europeans also have stop signs and traffic lights. That's not the point.

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