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Roundabout the Traffic Circles

I am not the only one who likes traffic circles or roundabouts.   One of my blog readers told me about the roundabout in his town of Monroe, Washington.    He told me that his town was the first to get a roundabout in Washington State and it took them a year to get approval from the Department of Transportation.  Now the state loves them and Washington State even has a roundabout page.    

Below is the roundabout in Monroe, Washington

Roundabout in Monroe, Washington in February 2009

Before the roundabout, traffic was snarled and tempers frayed.    After some confusion and trepidation among drivers unfamiliar with roundabout etiquette, this imported innovation evidently works like a charm. 

Below - Americans are not taught to use traffic circles.  These signs show graphically how it works.  BTW - the way it was explained to me in Europe was very easy.  Everybody yields to the traffic already in the circle.  Merge when there is an opening.

Traffic signs near roundabout in Monroe, Washington in February 2009

I saw my first roundabout when I went to the UK when I was in college.   I still remember marveling at the seamless flow of traffic.   You need a Goldilocks solution: drivers that are too aggressive or too timid can ruin the system, but traffic flows beautifully when they are just right.    I wondered why we didn’t have them in the U.S.    I figured that American drivers were just too ornery.     I am glad to find out that I was wrong.

Traffic circle in Arlington VA on February 22, 2009 

Above is a traffic circle in Arlington, VA.  The intrusive stop signs indicate that they kind of miss the point.  I think these traffic circles are meant merely to slow traffic and maybe as decorations.

Stanton Park looking toward Maryland Av on February 22, 2009

Above in Stanton Park with a statue of Nathaniel Greene, one of Washington's most reliable generals and a hero of the campaigns in the Carolinas.  Twelve streets feed into this square, so it acts sort of like a traffic circle.   If you have a traffic circle, it is nice if you can have a monument in the middle.  It gives the place a little more class.

Capitol Hill scene on February 22, 2009 

Above is Maryland Ave on Capitol Hill.  It is a nice neighborhood.  This is a good example of an urban renaissance.  Washington was not as nice 20 years ago.  It was run by a crooked mayor and full of crime and disorder and some parts had not recovered from the riots way back in 1967.  It goes to show how different things can be when they are run differently.  It would have been easy to give up; good we didn't.

Capitol Hill neighborhood looking west on February 22, 2009 

Above is the same place looking the other way (you can recognize the trees).  It is not as dark as the picture shows.  I just got a bad exposure.  But if you look a couple of blocks you can see why it was such a shame 20 years ago that this was not a great neighborhood.


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Comments

Hi John,

Worth mentioning is Swindon.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Roundabout_(Swindon)

best,
Maciej

Aerial photo of the Magic Roundabout a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/content/image_galleries/wiltshire_live_search_gallery.shtml?15" here.

I get very confused by them. Guess I'm getting old!!

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