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Beware the roundabouts

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Rotaries are where four streets intersect and merge into a circle. Motorists drive round and round, just guessing which one has the right of way and trying to figure out how to exit. Some believe this to be the origin of the word roundabout.

Until now, this type of motoring nightmare has been limited to European countries, British television, and inebriated college students after any home football victory. Mostly this novelty has been laughed at by Americans, but not anymore. There’s one being constructed in our fair county, and downtown is ground zero.

There’s an old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Growing up at 110 Flamingo Street we had another saying, “If it’s broke, I didn’t do it.” When it comes to driving we have a rather simple system in the United States: red means stop, green means go, and yellow means ... well, that depends if there’s someone watching or not.

All in all the system works. Buy a bunch of stop signs and traffic lights and before you know it you have a thriving city — all funded by people who don’t stop at those traffic lights and stop signs. There’s balance in the universe. Not so when roundabouts come to town.

When four cars from four different directions approach an intersection outfitted with stop signs, the guy on the right goes first, then the person on his right, and so on. Everyone takes a turn. As systems goes this one is just about perfect for all — unless of course you don’t know your right from your left. In that case, you should just stay home and spend your time deciding which shoe goes on which foot. Hint: the one with the laces goes on the right foot.

Our traffic system works. Not so with a roundabout. There’s no right, or left, or even making a turn for that matter. To enter a roundabout one just takes a gap and gives a gap – simple by design. Yeah, right. Just ask how that gap thing has worked for those poor folks trying to access the highway in downtown Atlanta during rush hour.

The universe is out of whack when roundabouts are constructed and the economy suffers. Not one, but two industries are suddenly out of business. There’s no longer any need for stop signs or traffic lights. I ask you, in this economic climate, is this a time to put all those people out of work? But that’s just the beginning of the economic impact.

Roundabouts will have a devastating effect on the revenues of our county and city coffers. First, someone has to pay for the construction of roundabouts. That would be us. Importing those British engineers and constructions workers I’m sure wasn’t cheap. How they got in through Georgia’s new immigration law is amazing.

Second, with fewer stop signs and traffic lights it will mean fewer tickets ... fewer tickets less revenue ... less revenue higher taxes. Someone has to make up the shortfall. That also would also be us. Independence Day is right around the corner, and those Brits are causing us to pay higher taxes once again.

It’s going to be like getting stuck on Interstate 285, except you don’t have to drive all the way to Atlanta. There’s even a green space area complete with park benches. I guess so people can watch the show. Special note for them there revenuers: Charge admission. That could bring in more money in a month than all those previous traffic fines did in a year.

See, it’s a vicious circle. Hey, I bet if they rename roundabouts Vicious Circles, none would be built. I guess I could just go around the new roundabout and avoid the thing entirely, but that wouldn’t make much sense, now would it?

So for now, I’ll stand on my soapbox in the center of our downtown and shout NO! No to roundabouts! Rise up, fellow countians – it’s Independence Day once again. The Roundabouts are coming and with them will come higher taxes, job losses, and huge increases in law enforcement overtime.

Who else do you think is going to help all those residents stuck in the roundabout find their way out? On second thought, overtime pay for our overworked and underpaid police officers ... maybe roundabouts might not be such a bad idea after all.

I’ve even heard our neighboring city has a double roundabout. Instead of going round and round, they get stuck doing figure eights in a parking lot — just like those inebriated college students after home football victories.

Great, a town full of drunken college students. Yep, this roundabout thing is going to work out just fine.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is]


Washington, D. C., has many many traffic circles (roundabouts) They are not difficult if one reads the signs.
New York has a famous one. It also has trafic lights for entrance to the circle!

I doubt that we are any more stupid than D. C. drivers!

Their purpose is to allow traffic from all directions to flow without stopping. All one has to do is get into the correct lane as directed by the signs before and into the circle. Lanes can be changed inside the circle also.

All they are: Interstate exits which do not hold up traffic on the highway for a light to change.

I think the Civil Engineers from Georgia Tech could figure one out! Just don't let the same people who now put up our road signs that are off the Interstates (state and county) and in PTC do the hanging of the signs!

I came to an intersecrion once in the woods in Coweta County that said Route 27, left and right---no compass direction was noted. (N<S<E<W).

I went 20 miles until I saw the sun shining in the wrong place!

You must not drive a fire truck!

Sorry - I didn't see this until this morning. Will the one here have traffic lights for entrance? That will help. I know the drivers here aren't stupid - and here in Fayette County, the most polite that I've ever encountered. However, to those of us who are 'experienced', until we become accustomed to entering and exiting, it can be a bit frightening.

The roundabout in the PTC Kroger parking lot is a good example of why many things that seem to work in the old countries don't work very well here. If you notice, the roundabout in Kroger's lot is constantly having to be re-landscaped because the 18 wheeler truck that delivers gas to the Kroger gas station is too big and long to make the tight turn required to successfully negotiate the passage around and therefore the rear wheels ride up and over the roundabout's curb and crushes the flowers and leaves huge furrows in the roundabout island. The trucks and cars are much larger here on the whole than in Europe and England. Plus it takes up a much greater amount of space than a simple stop sign. Too much attention to trying to be cute and "modern" than just sticking to simple and inexpensive. Save the money paid to consultants and spend it on fixing the roads we already have!

So far, He has refused to come in the correct entrance. It is the one nearest to Hwy 74.

Me, I'll take a nice roundabout anyday, no stopping for the most part and much less of getting t-boned.

TinCan's picture

Spy, have you made the right turn to the gas pumps from the entrance you recommend? If he can't navigate the circle he sure as h--l can't make the near hairpin turn at that entrance. Don't really see a good way in there for the tanker other than maybe coming in off the Parkway and I'm not sure that's legal. Maybe the only tanker ban is on Robinson. And interestingly, I almost got T-boned while in that circle because some nitwit coming into the lot never paused and flew by just missing the front of my car. Well technically that may be L-boned.

Busy Bee's picture

I don't often get to the Braelin Village shopping center, but I was there this morning and noticed the ruts in the roundabout landscaping. I then drove around to see if I could identify a better route for the gasoline tanker to enter the gas station and could not find one. Seems like the designer of the parking lot for the newly re-designed Braelin Village completely neglected to take in consideration the need for a tanker to service the gas station. The roundabout is fine for normal autos but is much too small in diameter to accomodate a semi.

BTW, I like roundabouts when properly designed. On Amelia Island several busy 4-way stops have been replaced with roundabouts and they work fine.

would know how to drive.

Maybe his is a "not my yob, man?"

They don't turn off gas or electric either! (I think however that most of them would if allowed)

Roundabouts are nothing new, they've been around for many generations. But not here. We're one of the last in the world to make use of these ingenious ways to save energy and time. The above author cites money being wasted by roundabouts, but honestly once you get used to them, you have to wonder about all the money wasted at needless stop sign stops, whereas a roundabout removes that needless stop if no one is coming.
Ellijay, Ga has a very successful roundabout right in the town square. Our country is embarrassingly behind in many areas, and this is one improvement I'm glad we're embracing.

After experiencing the driving skill of drivers in this particular area, I'm concerned about 'once you get used to them'. In Florida, they finally had to install stop signs in some of their roundabouts, because the drivers had great difficulty 'waiting until no one is coming'. I think for a while, an officer would have to be stationed at the roundabout to assist until 'we' become used to the use of this 'new' addition for safety.

Cyclist's picture

I do know that Miami divers are very friendly. They are always tooting their horns and waving at me especially when I’m slowing for a red light.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

LOL! This is why I love Fayette!! I had to learn not to use my horn as was the custom in LA! It will take some getting used to - but it does work if people are 'polite' and wait for the oncoming traffic. (I just don't plan to use it during 'rush' hour here in Fayetteville!)

Cyclist's picture

Those Latin drivers know only two speeds; "on" and "off". Oh, and they really can use that horn. :-)

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

The roundabouts are attractive - and I guess functional for those who aren't afraid to use them correctly - but the ones that we used near Sarasota had the stop signs - and I notice that my neighbors here in Fayette have a problem with 4-way stop signs. We'll need training - and I will try to avoid them here. :-)

Cyclist's picture

I have ridden several times on the infamous Los Alamitos Traffic Circle in Long Beach. This is were Lakewood Blvd and PCH intersect. As a rider, I was very cautious with autos (AKA "Cagers") trying to merge right in order to exit the roundabout. Cagers seem to have a little difficulty realizing that a cyclist might not be exiting the "circle" at the same location and will inadvertently crowd out the cyclist in the lane as they try to merge right. When riding in a roundabout, I'll take the "lane" in order to prevent this. So be it for the dynamics of these roundabouts.

Caution - The Surgeon General has determined that constant blogging is an addiction that can cause a sedentary life style.

I wonder if they even think about 'the cyclist'. Most of the 'drivers' I encountered in the Tampa/Sarasota area were definitely in their 70's enjoying the sun and warm weather - and having great difficulty navigating those 'roundabouts'. There was a roundabout placed in the Pasadena area - not far from the Huntington. It was an intersection where originally there was a 3-way stop. It was attractive - but since I never tried to negotiate it during the 'traffic' hours - I don't know if it made any difference during rush hour. I don't envy the cyclists as the drivers learn to negotiate this 'new' addition to Fayette County. I'm not at all familiar with the politics here - just what I see in the local papers - but this just doesn't make sense to me. Since no one here has spoken 'for' it - I guess I'm not alone. Wouldn't mind hearing the pro side for 'roundabouts' in Fayette County. A roundabout has been in operation on the 5 in California - not far from Magic Mountain - I think the turn-off near the Sheriff's Correction Camp. A lot of accidents in the beginning - some quite serious. Stay safe.

up to your car to show your their 'piece' up close and personal. It has happened very often there. I decided it was time for me to get out 'again' when two Cuban ladies decided to get out of their cars on a main thoroughfare and shoot it out to decide who had the right of way. Sort of the latin version of the old west. Comical, unless you are in the line of fire!

Roundabouts are great. No long lines waiting for people who don't know how to navigate a four way stop properly. You don't even have to stop at a roundabout if no one is coming. They are so simple and I don't understand why folks are so against them. I guess it's the people who have never driven through one doing all the complaining.

Roundabouts cost nothing to run day-to-day and work brilliantly if everybody simply does what they should. In fact, if one cannot figure out how to navigate a roundabout safely, driving itself is probably not advised.

hutch866's picture

4 way stops don't cost anything to run either, and how simple are they, yet, the driving public seemed to have problems with them too.

I yam what I yam

TinCan's picture

If everyone does what they should just about everything "works".

Yes, of course. But you are suggesting that obeying a stop sign is somehow easier than not running directly into the path of a moving vehicle. I fail to understand your logic - and not surprisingly, the stats don't support you. Extending your argument only slightly, it would seem that all parking lots should have stop signs to keep people from driving into the road without checking the traffic. Do you really believe a stop sign would affect the people driving like that? Or will you concede that the original comment was correct in stating that, in such cases, "driving is not advised?"

TinCan's picture

What I was suggesting was if you do what you should, follow traffic laws, things usually go fairly well. Speaking of logic...well never mind.

I guess I'm pretty good at it, everyone extends their middle finger at me and tells me I'm number one.

Gort's picture

Ah, the run around about roundabouts. I like the public services message this Midwest town, (Carmel Indiana,) did to explain roundabouts to its citizens.

The video covers safety, design, initial cost, operating cost and much more.

Select the second video, "All About Roundabouts".

Remember: If you think Social Security and Medicare are worth saving, vote for the Democrat.

Every bit of both scientific and anecdotal evidence demonstrates conclusively that traffic circles/roundabouts are MUCH SAFER than traditional four-way stops. And that applies in the USA as well as in the rest of the world. You can rail against progress and good sense all you want, but the facts speak for themselves. Get with the program! Traffic circles are a much better technology and they are our future. All these silly objections are completely phony.

First, neither this columnist nor most commentators have made a distinction between “roundabouts” and “traffic circles.” If there are stop signs or any other traffic control device, they are not roundabouts, they are traffic circles - and traffic circles do not work anything like as well as roundabouts. The traffic control on a roundabout consists solely of yielding to traffic that is already on it. This is identical to yielding to traffic when entering a freeway or interstate or when changing lanes. In other words, if you aren't going to hit somebody, you are free to proceed.

There is no deliberation over who has the right of way, no consideration of “who got there first.” If you, by entering the roundabout, are going to cause an accident then you.are.wrong. Just as in EVERY other traffic situation. The only difficulty anyone can ever have with a roundabout is a failure to understand this fact, and timidly waiting to enter until all traffic has cleared. Barring the result of a lack of public information, this is the same bozo who comes to a complete stop on the freeway ramp and fails to enter (or exit) the merge lane.

As for the fuel truck that can't negotiate the supermarket roundabout - roundabouts generally are not responsible for the poor engineering of a specific roundabout. I know of a one in Canmore, BC, that is so small it cannot be negotiated safely by cars at normal speed, yet is expected to accommodate bus-size campers and fifth wheel trailers. England (which I recently returned from) has no problem with roundabouts this size because, unlike the Canmore one (and apparently the supermarket one), small ones are painted onto the road so that drivers can drive straight across if the traffic is clear. Canmore put a rock statue in the middle so you not only can't see whether or not traffic is clear, if you do go over the line you are REALLY messed up. This does not make roundabouts bad; it makes bad civil engineering bad.

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