Round and Round the Roundabout

Traffic CircleRoundabouts and traffic circles are not new to British Columbia, but if the complaints in my inbox are any indication, they are still totally mystifying to some drivers. Common issues include bulldozing into the circle without yielding, signalling when there is no need, not signalling when there is a need, and yes, going around them in the wrong direction.

Most e-mails observe that while new drivers may be taught how to use these intersections properly, the rest of us have to figure it out on our own and somebody has to clue us in. In general, fingers point to either the provincial government or ICBC having primary responsibility for this task. I disagree. Basic responsibility for keeping driving skills up to date rest with the individual driver.

There is certainly no lack of information on the subject. ICBC has a web page on How to Use a Roundabout, a Roundabout Information Guide and the Learn to Drive Smart manual. TranBC's web site explains Rules of the Roundabout, a How to Use Roundabouts and has videos to watch and learn from.

Of course, DriveSmartBC web site visitors have a collection of roundabout and traffic circle information to browse as well.

If you think about it, the task is not that difficult. As you approach any intersection you scan for other road users, vehicles, cycles and pedestrians, and signs that control your travel.

In the case of a single lane roundabout or traffic circle that is marked with a yield sign as you approach and there is any other road user present (again, think crosswalks and cyclists in addition to vehicles), you must yield to them as necessary prior to entering. The center is marked with a sign that tells you to proceed around it to the right. Since that is the only way to go, no signal is required.

Exiting does require a signal to tell others what you are intending to do.

When the roundabout has two lanes, things become a bit more complicated but when broken down into individual steps there is nothing new here either.

As you approach the roundabout there is a sign that tells you which lane you must enter the roundabout from based on where you intend to exit. Switch to the appropriate lane if necessary.

Yield as usual and proceed counterclockwise.

Follow the lane use markings once you are inside. If you are nearest the center, exit into the leftmost lane. Otherwise, exit into the right lane.

The only other complication that comes to mind is if you are approached by an emergency vehicle, but that's not really different either. If you are in the roundabout, get out and pull over. If you are approaching the roundabout, stop before you enter and let the emergency vehicle pass.

Finally, what happens when you encounter a traffic circle that doesn't have yield signs posted? The case of Trytko v Kafafi explains that this situation results in the traffic circle being considered as an uncontrolled intersection. Here section 173(1) MVA applies and drivers already in the circle must yield and let other drivers enter.

In regard to signalling, that is.

Whether it's a small traffic circle (which is essentially an uncontrolled intersection with a round island in the middle) or a roundabout, in either case it's an intersection and therefore a signal is required.

Oddly, his actions are correct - he signals the turn on approach and exit - even while he's stating that he doesn't have to signal. Weird.

NOTE: This video has been withdrawn since the article was written and has been deleted.

In the video I don't think he is signalling when entering the roundabout.  He does briefly signal a right turn while talking about lane choice but it is well before the roundabout and he turns off his signal almost immediately.

I can't find (on a brief search) any BC government information on roundabouts which mentions signalling to enter the roundabout.

Which direction would one signal when entering?  If you signal right, then that might easily be confused by a waiting driver as an intention to exit immediately and in turn cause the waiting vehicle to pull out in front of you.


Yeah, you're right; that initial signal of his is actually redundant, as he isn't changing lanes, and he cancels it before commencing the turn into the roundabout. And his chat about lanes is without visual context, as there aren't any there that I can see.

As he's supposed to be a Driving Instructor, you would think he'd pick a better location for this.

He also doesn't seem to have realized that signals aren't something you do 'at' a situation (turn, lane change, etc) but prior; they're an indication of intent rather than execution or else they're pointless; so turning the signal on again as he leaves is illegal, in my opinion. 

I've always been amazed at the inability of drivers to read and absorb a simple instruction: YIELD TO TRAFFIC IN CIRCLE

Is this really Rocket Science? Perhaps so from the number of drivers I've seen who come to a complete stop at an empty circle and wonder what to do. Or those who barge right in as if they own the road.

But then, perhaps they can't think beyond the "usual" rule that says the driver on your right has the Right of Way. Oh, the confusion!

My first encounters with roundabouts were those in Victoria. Simple as they were, I've suspected that they were a plot by the local Autobody Shops to generate business. At least, it certainly seemed to work that way.

But later experiences with roundabouts were in the UK during visits and I saw how well they actually worked. Even the multi-lane ones on the Motorways and those large enough that you hardly had to slow down for. But then the Brits had something that is a vague memory here ... It's called COURTESY.

There is a nice one not too far from me and I often use it as a "test". It's in a 50 kph zone that has a playing field on one side and a park on the other and I'm always pretty close to 50. If I get a tailgater, I'll downshift to 2nd (Yes, I have one of those anti-theft things) as I approach and, if the circle is clear, go through at 50 kph. If "tailgater" is still on my bumper, I'll have a different opinion than I had going in but most times it just helps me to guage their "idiot" level. It's even more fun in the rain though.

But later experiences with roundabouts were in the UK during visits and I saw how well they actually worked. Even the multi-lane ones on the Motorways and those large enough that you hardly had to slow down for. But then the Brits had something that is a vague memory here ... It's called COURTESY.

I hear what you're saying, and certainly the Brits are a courteous bunch (my family background and formative years), but there's also a fundamental difference in their view of things when it comes to right-of-way. As in, you don't have any, much of the time.

The whole country could be seen as a collection of roundabouts and circles, connected by roadways. Pedestrians aren't even accommodated in this scenario, but the general idea that if you're in the circle, you own it (over the driver wishing to enter) is understood as a fundamental.

Heck, all they need at an intersection in that country is a couple of rows of double-dotted white lines to define the side road from the main road, signs are redundant.

And even the French (and most of those other European type peoples) manage the concept pretty well, even if they're driving on the wrong side of the road, comparatively speaking. Mind you, the massive circle around the Arc de Triomphe has had to be redesigned to force everyone to take the next right turn, these days, to help keep the tourists alive and in one piece.

C-D BC, I believe that you are a driving instructor. If so, you may appreciate this:

Many years ago I was applying for a job as a taxi driver and was required to attend a "refresher" course. The moderator drew a diagram of a simple, 4-way intersection on a chalk board and drew two vehicles approaching. He asked, "Ok, who has the right of way?" There was a general consensus.

Then he added a couple of Stop signs and the discussion took a bit longer. Then two more Stop signs, then traffic signals and so on. At each complexity, the discussions became more agitated.

Finally, he erased the board, turned and said, "Right of Way is nothing more than arguing points for lawyers in a courtroom! But you're just as dead!"

Always remembered that ....

The Region of Waterloo reports that the effect of replacing a conventional intersection with a roundabout is to reduce casualty collisions by ½ but increase reportable property damage only (RPDO) collisions by 1/3. The typical Region of Waterloo collision mix is ¼ casualty collisions and ¾ RPDO collisions.

Before conversion: ¼ + ¾ =1

After conversion: ¼ * ½ + ¾ * 4/3 = 1.125

Total collisions increase by 1/8 or 12.5%.

If, instead, you consider the societal costs of the collisions before and after conversion and use the Region of Waterloo severity mix, the calculation would show about a 10% reduction in total societal collision costs.

Result of converting intersections to roundabouts based on Region of Waterloo data is a marginal increase in collision frequency, a marginal decrease in collision severity producing an overall marginal decrease in collision cost to society. Considering the extent to which roundabouts are promoted, I would have expected the results to be much more than marginal.

More information can be found at

Some folks spent quite some time putting that together, I'm impressed.

Considering the extent to which roundabouts are promoted, I would have expected the results to be much more than marginal.

When pedestrians are involved in a collision, injury - often serious - seems inevitable.

So what I noticed in scanning through that stuff was that, although the incidence of pedestrian collisions (by population percentage) has been slowly but steadily increasing over the last twenty years, only around 5% of pedestrian collisions are occurring at roundabouts. Ten times that - the majority - are occurring at intersections where 'pedestrians have the right of way', however.

How do they define these? Many 'roundabouts' - particularly in the Lower Mainland municipalties - are in fact traffic circles, in quiet residential neighbourhoods, that used to be 2-Way Stops. On the evidence, they seem to be very good at keeping pedestrians alive and in one piece. But is this - these collisions that don't occur - accurately revealed in the data, I wonder? Look at Page 40 and see what it doesn't tell you, if you see what I mean.


Meanwhile, glancing through the other data, it becomes evident that it's pretty dangerous in that region around 5:00 pm on a Friday evening.

And that the overwhelming and consistent majority of them are 2-vehicle crashes caused by drivers following too closely.

May we assume from all of this that the majority of tickets issued by the police forces operating there are for tailgating, along with right-of-way violations when turning at intersections. And, if not, then what excuse do they have for ignoring these clear problem?

It’s not just in the Region of Waterloo that roundabouts were found to reduce casualty collisions but increase total collisions. Page C-27 of the 2015 Minnesota Traffic Safety Fundamentals Handbook, which you can download through the link below, reports that single-lane roundabouts reduce all severities of collisions but multi-lane roundabouts have produced crash rates up to twice the average for high volume/low speed, signal-controlled intersections in the State.

You can read about one of the Minnesota initiatives to improve the safety of two-lane roundabouts in the publication “Adjusting Lane Markings and Signage Improves Safety at Two-Lane Roundabout”, available at

Understanding one of the types of collisions that commonly occur in two-lane roundabouts can be helped by using Google Maps to show two two-lane roundabouts in the Abbotsford area, then comparing the lane dividing lines approaching, around and exiting the circular roadways. The first intersection is the overpass of McCallum Road with Highway 1. The status of the landscaping shows that the photo was taken shortly after the two connected roundabouts were put in service. The second intersection is Mt. Lehman Road with Highstreet Access Road and the on-ramp to Highway 1 westbound. Does the condition of the lane dividing lines suggest that sideswipe collisions in the circulating lanes of the Mt. Lehman roundabout are particularly likely? How much of a factor might the worn lane markings be to ICBC when allocating responsibility for a two-vehicle collision in that roundabout?

The Region of Waterloo data shows that the most likely place for a pedestrian to be injured at a roundabout is when crossing the exit lane. That is particularly understandable for a roundabout with two or more lanes exiting together. Makes sense when you consider that when two vehicles exit in adjacent curving lanes, both vehicles are likely to be re-accelerating and that one of the vehicles can create a significant blind spot for the driver of the other vehicle. One of the pluses of those three, two-lane Abbotsford municipality roundabouts is that they are located in areas where there is little pedestrian traffic – as evidenced by the few pedestrian crossings.

Please allow me to take issue with the current law regarding roundabouts.

Consider a traffic circle with four entries, each at one of the compass points, N,S,E and W. Imagine rush hour traffic, with the south lane full and wanting to turn west; and the north lane also full, and wanting to turn east. Result : standstill. Where are the traffic cops to sort it out? They can’t reach the site because of all the parked cars.

To quote from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, ... “if the law supposes that, then the law is a ass- a idiot ...”

Perhaps the law needs to be changed.

Consider a traffic circle with four entries, each at one of the compass points, N,S,E and W. Imagine rush hour traffic, with the south lane full and wanting to turn west; and the north lane also full, and wanting to turn east.

Then you would have two files of traffic coming from opposite directions, all turning right without conflict or difficulty.

Should you wish to add cops, they could arrive from the west or the east if the backup to the north and south is severe; but this is highly unlikely anyway, even during rush hour, as they only use these unregulated devices in quiet residential neighbourhoods.

Just FYI, I used some of the material here in a note to Todd Stone about the lack of wording specific to "Roundabouts" and/or "Traffic Circles" in the BC MVA.  In my opinion, dependency upon Yield signs to reverse the usual rule of Right of Way, is deficient.

I've spoken with Stone face to face about three times and more often via e-mails, about "motorcycle issues".  But I've come to the conclusion that, unless I'm speaking with someone who is a rider, it's a bit like talking to a wall.

But he is a driver and I've chided him about being tagged as a "Mini Flying Phil" (Remember him?) while running late for the Ferry. 

Time will tell to see if any BC MVA changes are forthcoming.

Hello, first time poster here. I have a question regarding the correct procedure for two lane roundabouts and I'm hoping I can explain this clearly.

Specifically, I have the Evans Road and Yale Road roundabout in Chilliwack in mind where I have repeated near misses.

I'm driving west on Yale Road in the right lane about to enter the roundabout never leaving my lane and I intend to exit the roundabout on the far side continuing on Yale Road heading west. I look left and see there is traffic in the center lane heading north on Evans Road and no traffic in the outer lane. I have no idea if they wish to keep on heading north on Evans or turn west onto Yale Road. No one feels compelled to signal their intentions to other drivers in roundabouts. 

Can I safely enter the outside lane with traffic in the inner lane? At this point there won't be any collision.

If yes, and I proceed into the roundabout, the problem begins soon. You see, traffic in the inner lane decides to exit the roundabout from the inner lane, crossing the outer lane, and then exit the roundabout heading north on Evans Road. We've been told a hundred times that traffic inside has the right-of way, so both vehicles in each lane think they have the right-of-way. At this point, a near miss occurs as I am in the same position, but heading west on Yale Road. If there is a collision, who will be deemed at fault?

2 lane roundabout diagram

The yield signs require that traffic entering the roundabout yield to ALL OTHER TRAFFIC, meaning traffic in BOTH lanes of the roundabout. So, traffic entering the roundabout will be yielding and present no obstacle for traffic already in the roundabout.

Traffic already in the roundabout using the right lane will be exiting (didn't turn right immediately after yielding on entry) so they also will not present an obstacle for a driver in the left lane to exit the roundabout.

Of course, this all depends on drivers doing what they are supposed to!

If you're facing a red and white sign (could be a Stop sign, a Railroad crossbuck, a Do not Enter sign, or a Yield sign) at any kind of intersection then it should be obvious. These signs tell you that you do NOT have the right of way.

Yield signs

173 (1) Except as provided in section 175, if 2 vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time and there are no yield signs, the driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to the vehicle that is on the right of the vehicle that he or she is driving.

(2) Except as provided in section 175, if 2 vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time and there is a yield sign, the driver of a vehicle facing the sign must yield the right of way to all other traffic.

Incidentally, the ones with unique shapes (amongst road signs) are designed so that they can be identified from the back of the sign. (The Do not Enter sign isn't relevant the road users seeing the back of it.

A roundabout is just another kind of intersection. And they work very well, for all road users - if they follow the rules. Yield means yield, eh?