You Spin My Head Right Round

When you’re commuting in Georgia, it’s generally because (with apologies to Flo Rida) you’ve got people to see, and your time is precious. Daily commutes are getting longer, so perhaps communities should defer to traffic engineers – and the Mythbusters – and embrace the roundabout.

As reported in the AJC, roundabouts are on the increase in Georgia. Since 2005, 145 have been built in Georgia, and another 130 are either under construction or in the design process, so if there’s not one in your community yet, chances are, you’ll see one soon. In Smyrna, we currently have three roundabouts, and one is in the works for the 2016 SPLOST. Smyrna’s nascent roundabout will replace a traffic light that controls a six-point intersection. Traffic there is light, but the time drivers spend waiting for the lights to cycle through each street is frustratingly long; that’s the kind of interchange that was made for a roundabout.

The AJC notes that feelings on roundabouts range from love to loathe:

Surveys have shown that before roundabouts are installed, a lot of people don’t want them, said Mike Hunter, director of the National Center for Transportation Systems Productivity and Management at Georgia Tech. But afterward, they tend to be well-received.

“I think there has definitely been a tipping point in Georgia, where you are now starting to see more and more people request them,” Hunter said. “It’s not the transportation agencies going in and saying, ‘We think this is a good location for one.’”

It’s also clear that driver education is key – although, arguably, if you have the wherewithal to operate several thousand pounds of steel, you should be able to figure out how to circumnavigate a circle. The Georgia Driver’s Manual currently gives roundabouts only a passing glance, but they will be covered in greater depth for next year’s edition. (Admittedly, if there’s a stop sign at the roundabout, the situation is sometimes fraught.)

Alternatively, some believe that roundabouts are kin to ten-foot sidewalks as a tenet of Agenda 21. Benignly innovative traffic calming tactic, or part of the UN’s onward march towards global domination? Discuss in the comments.

21 comments

  1. Max Power says:

    Let’s face it, many Georgians have trouble driving in a straight line and would probably have a stroke if faced with something like the Place de l’Etoile. How about we focus on teaching people how to do things like use turn signals and drive in the rain first?

  2. Progressive Dem says:

    In many circumstances roundabouts are very beneficial. They are more efficient than traffic signals and stop signs. They’re less costly. They’re safer for drivers and pedestrians. The one in Emory Village has been a huge improvement over the previous traffic signal. Drivers adapted to it very quickly.

  3. blakeage80 says:

    A roundabout at 5 points in Athens would be amazing. I don’t know if there is room for one though.

  4. Ellynn says:

    A traffic circle just gives the cars on the circle the right of way, and cars entering the circle need to yield to oncoming traffic. Just like the downtown Savannah squares.

  5. gcp says:

    Diverging diamond interchanges over expressways , such as the one on Pleasant Hill over 85, are some of the best and cheapest ways to improve traffic flow.

    • gt7348b says:

      Where appropriate. I’m not sure diverging diamonds would have helped at Emory Village or the 6-point intersection in Smyrna. Roundabouts and Diverging Diamonds are two good tools when used appropriately

      • gcp says:

        Was not implying we use diverging diamonds at all intersections but yes these small, relatively cheap projects are cost-effective particularly when compared to the costly billion dollar 285/400 mess.

  6. Raleigh says:

    I was a skeptic about roundabouts however I’m coming around pardon the pun. I experienced a 4 way stop in Milton that was converted into a roundabout and now traffic flows much faster through the intersection. The only drawbacks I see are:

    1. The traffic flows faster through the roundabout but stacks up at the next 4 way so it just moved to the next choke point.

    2. You get the occasional person who is going through it for the first time and stops because they can’t figure it out.

    Other than those issues the roundabout at that intersection was a big success. It should also be cheaper to maintain that having red lights and it appears it would move traffic faster than red lights.

    There was something in the news about a roundabout somewhere in Cherokee County that had stop signs. Weird, I thought stop signs defeated the point but it is Cherokee County after all.

    • benevolus says:

      One shouldn’t have to yield to Toyota Corollas or those boxy Honda things. Yielding to them is not what makes America great.

      • saltycracker says:

        I learned in sailing for years: Big boats and ships have the right of way….but out there, there is no evidence left……

  7. seenbetrdayz says:

    Peach County got its first and only one so far. It’s worked well I suppose. I’ve been through it maybe 10 times in the past year so maybe I’m not the best person to judge, because none of my daily travel involves the route it’s on. They do take up a fair bit more space but this one is unique in that it has its own dedicated turning lane for the direction of road that sees the most traffic. So coming from the interstate and making a right turn onto that particular road you can actually bypass the roundabout altogether (you still have to yield to folks coming out of the roundabout).

    And yes, Americans do struggle to yield. The GA driver’s handbook says a yield sign means you ‘must yield to all traffic not facing the sign’. But I’ve seen lots of folks making right turns and then stare me down as I almost hit them as I make my left turn to get on the interstate.

    For what it’s worth, Mythbusters had an episode testing the 4-way stop versus the roundabout and the roundabout let 20% more cars through the intersection in the span of their 15-minute test.

    If anything it saves wear on brakes as the tension of coming to a complete stop is reduced (unless you have to stop in order to yield).

    I’d rather have a roundabout than a poorly-calibrated traffic light that has one direction waiting for 10 minutes and when it turns green you have about 10 seconds to go through, and if there’s a semi with a trailer in front of you, well too bad, you must wait another 10 minutes.

  8. Scott65 says:

    Roundabouts are the best solution to areas that have multiple streets crossing each other. The only valid criticism I’ve heard about is one that was constructed too close to a school where you have drop off traffic which backed up into the roundabout. I second the Emory roundabouts…they save a whole lot of time.

    • gt7348b says:

      And the granite entry wall at the roundabout makes a nice place to wait for the bus after going to Slice & Pint!

  9. Charlie says:

    Oh, so this is what Stefan was yammering about in Gwinnett. Damn Socialist solutions for everything from that guy…

    Just kidding. Maybe.

    The hardest part about Roundabouts is trying to figure out how/where to turn into Southern Soul.

    On the plus side, if you put a destination attraction restaurant adjacent to each of these tools of socialism, capitalism will force everyone to figure them out for the greater good.

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