Beware the roundabouts


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]