Saturday, December 16, 2006

Traffic circles

Gather 'round class, because today we're going to learn all about traffic circles. Yes boys and girls, traffic circles aren't just for surrender monkeys any more. Soon you'll be seeing more of them in the midwest, so let's examine the subject at hand. What are traffic circles, also known as roundabouts, you may ask?
__Traffic circles are designed to speed the flow of traffic through an intersection. They work like freeway ramps; traffic entering the circle yields to traffic already in the circle (hence the yield sign at the entrance to the circle) and merges in smoothly, just like merging onto the freeway. Once in the traffic circle, you have the right of way, and proceed around the circle and exit at the appropriate street. Should you miss, you can just proceed around the circle again. Now I know that 'Minnesota nice' can be a good thing, but for the safety of everyone, please save the rare occurences of behind-the-wheel 'Minnesota nice' for another occasion. If you're already in the traffic circle, you have the right of way and should proceed through until it's time to exit. Traffic merging into the circle will merge when there's an opening; DO NOT stop or slow down in the middle of a traffic circle! You will obstruct the smooth flow of traffic into and out of the circle, and confuse everyone else. If you don't follow the traffic rules, you become unpredictable, and drivers doing random things are what cause crashes.
__You may think you're being nice by slowing or stopping for a bicyclist approaching the circle, but bicyclists are hyper-aware of traffic rules, and for their own safety are not going to want to enter a traffic circle if you're being unpredictable. Also, traffic behind you will get backed up if it doesn't plow right into you, and you will create a mess either way. Conversely, yielding to traffic already in the circle doesn't mean coming to a full and complete stop until there is absolutely no traffic in the circle. This is like coming to a stop on a freeway ramp until the freeway is completely clear. The idea is to merge smoothly into the circle, creating a nice flow of traffic through the intersection. Coming to a stop before a traffic circle, unless it is bumper-to-bumper, is asking to get rear-ended as the traffic behind you is looking for a hole to merge into, not at you.
__So, boys and girls, think of a traffic circle just like a freeway with ramps and you'll do just fine. Class dismissed!