Because roundabouts slow cars down, they speed up traffic.
In European Vacation, Chevy Chase had some difficulty with a roundabout:
Where are we going? To the order that roundabouts spontaneously create.
The Benefits of Roundabouts
With roundabouts, drivers rarely have to stop. Not stopping creates less congestion and burns less fuel than at intersections where we have to stop and then go. Because we drive slowly and have to pay attention to turn-offs and rights of way, the vigilance that roundabouts require leads to fewer collisions. In the long run, they also can cost less than a new traffic signal.
The switch to a roundabout brings the number of total crashes down by 40 percent and comes close to eliminating accident fatalities. By contrast, traffic experts have identified 56 points of “potential conflict” in a typical 4-way intersection– 32 that relate to other vehicles and 24 with pedestrians.
Although we started building roundabouts in the U.S. during the 1990s, they began to multiply only recently. Perhaps because they make people uncomfortable, most communities protest when someone proposes a roundabout. Still though, during the past decade, New York upped its total from 18 to 112. Others will probably follow because the federal government provides fiscal incentives for roundabout construction.
Our Bottom Line: Spontaneous Order
Spontaneous order is one reason roundabouts are so successful. Told nothing about how to coordinate, large numbers of people can work together productively. Called spontaneous order by economist Friedrich Hayek, the key is a mutual benefit. All drivers in a roundabout share the incentive to avoid careening into each other, to go in the appropriate direction, to maintain a similar pace. As a result, their roundabout navigation is rather orderly.
Below, do go directly to 00.45 to see how roundabouts resemble skating rinks.
In southern New Jersey they’ve been eliminating the roundabouts. Wonder why?
That is a common myth.
Many people confuse other and older styles of circular intersections with modern roundabouts. East coast rotaries, large multi-lane traffic circles (Arc D’Triomphe, Dupont Circle), and small neighborhood traffic circles are not modern roundabouts. If you want to see the difference between a traffic circle, a rotary (UK roundabout) and a modern roundabout (UK continental roundabout), go to http://tinyurl.com/kstate-RAB to see pictures. And here’s another site that shows the difference between an older rotary and a modern roundabout: http://tinyurl.com/bzf7qmg
The NY rotaries are being phased out because their large diameters permit high speeds, which are more difficult for entering traffic to merge with and result in injury crashes. The emerging saying is ‘At a rotary crash you need an ambulance. At a modern roundabout crash, you might need a tow truck’.