A few years’ back, our state DOT came up with a great idea to control traffic and reduce time motorists spend idling at stoplights. The roundabout!
It’s not a new idea, they’re all around the world. We even have a famous one in Washington DC, a city designed in the European tradition.
Oh, so you’ll find roundabouts in Europe? You know what you won’t find? FREEDOM! Nobody’s going to tell me how fast I can drive and how much fossil fuel I can burn and make my streets safer and less noisy!
As far as traffic control, the roundabout idea seems to be working. Take this actual conversation I had with one of my friends trying to choose a restaurant.
Me: Let’s go to that pizza place next to the movie theater.
Friend: Where the roundabout is?
Friend: I’m not going.
Fine with me because it doesn’t take long to spot a roundabout-denier on the roads. They hesitate, spill over into other lanes, stay on too long, or abruptly u-turn and take a different roundabout-free route.
But it needn’t be this way, y’all! Let me tell you what roundabouts AREN’T:
They are not indicators of a community’s cultural sensibilities, as in “Did you hear what happened to Cedarburg…? They got a roundabout.“
They are NOT all-way stops! You don’t have to stop – that’s the whole point – just slow down. Wait your turn, if need be, but if traffic is moving, or there IS no traffic, just keep on keeping on.
They are not portals to other scary dimensions. That’s Stargate. As far as I know, the DOT won’t have those in place for another 20 years.
What ARE roundabouts? Linear speed bumps. A little “moment of zen” in this journey called life. No big deal (!) even when the weather is icy, or there’s traffic, or big trucks, it’s still all good, everything’s cool… the roundabout is just a way for everyone to slow down and get to know one another. They’re the Southwest Airlines of thoroughfares.
I advise you to get up early one morning, before the rush hour, drive down to your local roundabout, and give it a whirl. (Roundabout humor!) Don’t be afraid. And if you come back feeling a little different, talk to your local DOT.