Roundabouts and Traffic Circles

Traffic CircleI entered the roundabout and was continuing around when someone passed me on the left and shot across in front of me. I don’t know how I avoided a collision, but I did. Clearly his person did not know what they were doing and was driving as if they were on a regular street. Frightening!

Traffic circles (20 m or less in diameter) and roundabouts (30 m or more in diameter) are becoming popular in British Columbia. As this reader knows, so few of us have any experience with them that their navigation can be an adventure. Add the fact that some municipalities may mark them using Ministry of Transportation guidelines which differ from those shown in the provincial driving manual, Roadsense for Drivers, and you can see why confusion may occur.

The simplest situation is a single lane setup. You yield to traffic already in the circle, turn right to enter when safe and travel around in a counterclockwise direction. When you reach the roadway of your choice, turn right to exit.

A two lane roundabout is more complicated, but still easily navigated. If you intend what would have been a left turn at a "normal" intersection or wish to make a U-turn, you must enter the roundabout in the left lane. If you are making what would have been a right turn at a "normal" intersection or wish to travel straight through, you need to enter in the right lane. Otherwise, everything is the same as the single lane situation.

There are many pluses for roundabouts. Stop signs are eliminated, drivers tend to pay more attention and if everyone yields as required the danger of a left turn conflict with other traffic is eliminated.



Roundabouts & Traffic circles

When I click on the above mentioned, I get Driving Licenses.  Is this an error, or what?? 

RSVP, Cato


Both links have been corrected. The problem was that ICBC changed the links on their web site. About the only way that I know they need correcting is when someone brings it to my attention.

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I also hate having to stop at a 2 way or 4 way stop when there isn't a vehicle or pedestrian  in sight.
Being of Scottish descent, I hate the unnecessary wear and tear on the brakes, and the extra gas  wasted.   It all adds up.
I also think they are the cause for a lot of drivers developing "rolling" stops, as a matter of course.
I agree that there is a lot of trust that the other drivers will do "the right thing", especially when you are already in the circle.
It is always safer to wait a bit longer than cut in too soon, but once you are in, you really have to watch those approaching.
Are there any accident stats on them or are they (the circles)  too few and far between for meaningful figures ?
As far as small radius, you are right, I have seen a  lot of larger vehicles that just can't physically stay on track.
I recently used the Blue Busses from Horseshoe Bay to Vancouver, including the articulated ones, on several trips.  They have a lot of trouble on the circles near the highway entrance.
Snow can also make them interesting.
I think the one at the east end of  Dawson Creek makes a lot of sense for its location to keep traffic flowing, but it can be terrible when  the snow banks block it in.
I like them for the ability to "turn left" smoothly on single lane roads, without tying up traffic or even do a U-turn if you have missed a prior turn, but I think they need to be constructed based on sound engineering principles and actual need, rather than as a result of political pressure by local neighbourhoods.

'Yield to Traffic in Roundabout' means all of it!

I entered the roundabout and was continuing around when someone passed me on the left and shot across in front of me. I don’t know how I avoided a collision, but I did. Clearly his person did not know what they were doing and was driving as if they were on a regular street.

Drivers may presume - wrongly - that even though there are Yield signs (often enough, one on each side of their half of the road), they only need to worry about vehicles in the nearest (outside) lane of the circle.  But it ain't so!  If driving past a Yield sign results in a collision with any vehicle in - or just leaving - the intersection, then all fault lies with the driver who disobeyed the Yield sign, basically.  That's what 'Yield' means; another way of thinking about is this: the vehicles that are within the Roundabout, own it.

There's a great example of highly efficient, multi-lane roundabouts on Vancouver's West 16th Avenue just east of Southwest Marine Drive near UBC.  I haven't figured out how to embed Google Street View images on this site just yet, but this link should get you there for Driver's Eye viewpoint, and to overview the whole situation (which really helps, once you zoom in a bit and look at the road markings), put these coordinates in your Google Earth program:

It can take a little while to wrap your head around this whole Roundabout thing, but actually they work very well so long as drivers understand these basics.

On approach, the right hand lane is where you must be if you will immediately afterwards be exiting to the right.

On approach, the right hand lane is where you can be if you will be continuing 'straight' on the same road you came in on (if you were heading east when you arrived, you'll be heading east when you leave, unless you already turned south (see previous).

But!  If you're planning on turning left, or even completing a U-Turn, then you must not be in the right hand lane when you approach, that's illegal and potentially dangerous.

On approach, the left hand lane is where you  can be if you will be continuing 'straight' on the same road you came in on (if you were heading east when you arrived, you'll be heading east when you leave.

On approach, the left hand lane is where you must be if you will eventually be turning left (if you're eastbound as you get there, that means you're intending to be northbound when you leave).  You could also use that left lane if you wanted to change direction from eastbound to westbound (essentially a U-Turn) and what the heck, if you just want to drive around in circles for a little while, contemplating life in general or - more probably - just wishing for a few more opportunities to view the destination information signs and the possibilities they present, then that's the place to be, until you've figured out where you want to go next. As you'll be crossing over the adjacent lane to your right, temporarily occupying it on your way to the exit from the Roundabout, it only makes sense to use your right signal before doing so to help reduce the chance of collision.

Of course, you must exit into the left hand lane of the road you've chosen to leave on, thus eliminating any chance of collision with drivers in the adjacent right lane; because they cannot legally continue any further around the circle anyway, right?  So they must exit in parallel with you, in the right lane.

But!  If you're planning on turning right at the first exit (think, eastbound to southbound), then you cannot enter the Roundabout from the left lane of the street you're on; otherwise, that would put you into potential conflict with another vehicle in the right lane beside you, intending to continue straight.  Makes sense, right?  Or left?

Roundabouts are awesome.  The amount of traffic volume they can handle makes traffic lights unnecessary, so long as there's enough real estate available for the traffic engineers to create one.

That general principle, that drivers in the inside lane of the Roundabout should be given right-of-way by drivers in the outside lane (never mind drivers who haven't yet entered this mighty intersection) works very well so long as everyone knows what's going on.  In Europe, they have been commonplace for years.  There, it's common to have a number of possible exits, and more than a couple of lanes around the circle.  There are some super 'caroussels' in Paris, often with no marked lanes (it would spoil the look of the cobblestone road surface, I guess) but some, such as the one at the Arc de Triomphe, have been dumbed down to where - even if you've found a chance to enter, of which there only a couple now I think - you must exit almost right away.

Then there are the Brits, and only an Englishman could have come up with the stupendous Magic Roundabout in Swindon!



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