Swings and roundabouts

Swings and roundabouts


You wouldn’t think roundabouts could be all that interesting, but it depends on where you come from. If you come from a land where they represent a challenge, an opportunity to go as fast as possible through an intersection, then roundabouts like the one below might be a source of wonder.

It looks like a pretty standard roundabout. It’s round, and pretty fairly goes about moving traffic from multiple directions in the most efficient way possible. Aside from a few extra lines on the roads, however, when you focus your gaze slightly further out from the centre you’ll find an extra circle running around the perimeter, and with some careful observation, you’ll notice some small, soft objects making their way around it.

These are people. People are things that for various reasons need to go places now and then. Some people in other parts of the world like to go places via other means than in a car. I know, right? That’s even possible?

Well, yes. Even in less than accommodating environments than this (The Netherlands), but more so in environments where it’s actually an attractive option. In those places, a lot of people go places via other means than in a car. A lot. Even through winter, and a winter where it actually snows. Have a look below and you’ll figure out why pretty quickly.

Notice how slow the cars are moving through here. That’s because the speed limit is 30mph (48kph). Notice how many cars are going even slower. Notice how well-marked the roads are and how well the crossings are positioned. When exiting the roundabout, there is a car-length gap between the roundabout itself and the crossing. Of course, I would have to assume that driver training is partially responsible for ingraining this attitude into new drivers, but good, clear, simple road design goes a long way towards helping.

Mostly though, it’s simply mesmerizing watching how this all happens with no drama. Cars slow down and stop for cyclists and pedestrians with alarming regularity. No one is rushing anyone, no one is antagonizing anyone, no one seems to be losing their minds. Now and then there are situations where it seems like the car is cutting it pretty close to the cyclist, but then if you watch the cyclist, there is no flinching, no swerving, no worrying, because they all understand how it works. People move about so that flow is maintained, rather than mashing down the accelerator, slamming on the brakes, and mashing down the accelerator again.

The Streetview link is here, which is interesting if you live in a place where infrastructure only just barely accommodates cars and not much else.

Here is a short video on how to design such a roundabout.

And for another view – this time during reasonably heavy traffic. Again, no dramas.

Anyway, I really just wanted to put the life-feed up because it was kind of mesmerizing and it’s Friday and it’s a pretty effective way to zone out and let the brain unplug for a few minutes. And, it’s really interesting to watch people interact in real-world situations, however voyeuristic that may be.

I also hope that if there is anyone in a position of some power who isn’t yet aware of how easy it is to make an intersection so easy to navigate for everyone, that they see this and wonder why you would design roundabouts in any other way? You don’t even have to have a network of separated cycleways to make these work. You could plunk this in the middle of a street with regular painted cycle lanes and it would still work (if you educate people on how to use it and apply the appropriate line-markings to make it easy to understand, etc). It’s about as hard as copy and paste.

That’s it. Pretty simple for today. Just roundabouts. Enjoy your weekend and make sure you ride your bikes!


Header image: source