Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Round and round we go

There's an interesting article over on slate about the adoption of
roundabouts in the USA. Apart from Lee Circle in New Orleans, I can
only think of one other roundabout and it's a new one that was put in
5 years or so ago in Lafayette.

Here in Ravenna they are everywhere, from my house to the office there
are 6 of them in the route, with only 2 traffic lights. For low to medium traffic
intersections they are fantastic. On the way to work in the morning they allow
you to zip through intersections without much fear, while the two traffic lights I have
to cross are still blinking yellow lights when I go through and I must treat them as
possible collision points. If I had to pass thorough 6 normal traffic lights on the way
to work, it would take me twice as long to get there.

For the high traffic intersections they make life interesting, and it took me a while
to learn the pattern, a key thing to watch for being cars exiting onto the same street
you are entering from. When a car exits, he's in the right lane or crossing from the inside
lane to the right lane and he'll block off the traffic entering from the next street. This
is when you can go...and go go go.

Italian drivers are the most aggressive in the world, if you're not going when you should be,
they are on the horn. They zip around roundabouts like F1 drivers whether they are in
a smart car or a 20 ton garbage truck. I don't know if the plethora of roundabouts and small
cars made them aggressive, or if they started out aggressive when they took their first
chariot out of the garage. It will be interesting to find out as more roundabouts appear
in the USA, it's one thing to zip around a roundabout in a Fiat, but when you have to do
it in surburban eating a cheeseburger and talking on the phone it will be even more interesting.

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