What´s the use of roundabouts?


I wonder every day this question. I have to cross six roundabouts before reach my workplace. Everyone of them causes me tension, nervousnes… It´s normal: almost two years ago I had an accident in one of them. It wasn´t serious but I took the decision to share my point of view with the rest, so I can to rule out I´m not crazy…

I have an answer to this question: They have been created to facilitate and lighten the traffic, to make it fluid. In an intersection the preference is given to the cars that circulate inside the roundabout and the rest wait to move on. There´s no doubt about it.  When it comes to choose who has the preference from the ones that circulate inside the roundabout, the discrepancy arises. According to the Spanish “Código de la Circulación”, the cars that circulate on the right lane, no matter if they go right, straight ahead or left… Is this normal? Does it give fluency to traffic?

Let´s study an example. We arrive to a roundabout, no matter which lane we are. We find that the car that comes the opposite way that drives on the right lane, decides to go left. All cars that are on its right have to give way until this driver decides to leave the roundabout: this is acceptable. This action also affects to all cars that circulate the opposite way (you and the ones that go the same direction to you… And, above all, this affects to that car that circulates close to it and wants to go straight ahead. This maneuver doesn´t give fluency to traffic, on the contrary: it makes that half of the traffic to waint until this car leaves the roundabout.

Near home is an Avenue (Avenida de los Menceyes, who were the kings of Guanches, people who lived in the Canaries before the Spaniards). A few years ago it was redesigned, so there would be two lanes in every direction. Some arrows were painted: half of them indicating to the driver on the right lane two options, to go right or to go straight ahead; the other haf indicating to the driver on the left lane two options: to go ahead or to turn left. Those arrows, that disipated any doubts, were erased to comply to the actual regulation.

The photo that accompanies this entrance belongs to the roundabout between Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham, Coventry, Warwick and London. It is situated over the M40 (a highway in England). I don´t have any information about its daily traffic but I can guess the traffic is quite heavy. I had to cross it more than once a day. This roundabout has four lanes: all of them are signed on  the floor, so the driver don´t get lost and reach the right exit. Cars get into the roundabout on the inside lane, they change lanes until they reach their correct way. It works like an LP player but the other way around… I never saw an accident in four years…

If I could do anything to change the way of driving and make people understand this rational way of driving through a roundabout, I´d do it. So far I´m writing this entrance to check what you think about the subject.

The positive part of the accident? I change my old car for a newer one and drive safer in it… As always, I take a positive lecture from, in the beginning, a not so favourable situation…

(First published on December 27th 2010)

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