Roundabouts – We’ve seen them sprouting up all over our town recently to the joy of some and the chagrin of others. Although they do finally seem to be catching on, roundabouts are still primarily a novelty or infrequent annoyance in the US.

However, leave the county and they become unavoidable. Overall, I feel they have great utility and have actually grown quite fond of a well-placed, well-constructed roundabout. In fact, we now regularly identify intersections at home that could benefit from a roundabout rather than the current 4-way stop or traffic light.

From our traveling experience, however, we’ve found that many roundabouts do not fall in this efficient, pleasant-to-use category and I’d like to propose that roundabouts actually come in three distinct types.

First, are what we’ve come to call the “proper” roundabout, pictured here. The “proper” roundabout manages a reasonable flow of traffic and has a defined center that forces cars into a circular motion, hence the name roundabout. These can be delightful.


Second, there is what I’ve come to call the insane roundabout. The largest we saw and I imagine one of the larger in the world was at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris where 12, yes 12 roads converge. Here you find so many “lanes” of traffic that for the uninitiated roundabout driver its quite terrifying.  Since stopping in panic is not an acceptable driving coping strategy (or maybe it is), it would be easy for an inexperienced roundabout driver to get stuck in there going around and around (ala Chevy Chase) until the wee hours of the morning when mercifully traffic slows and escape is possible.


And then, there is my favorite – the

Really?!?! roundabout

This is a round about in name only. I look at it more as an intersection with an added obstacle. A slight jog to the left (or right depending what country you are in) is necessary to avoid a collision with the statue in the center of the intersection, but does that really qualify as a round about? And because it is “technically” a round about, only yielding, not stopping, is required. If anything it seemed people sped up just to get through the thing as fast as possible.

Here’s my favorite personal example of the Really?!?!  round about from the beautiful town of Plettenburg Bay, South Africa. I love the dolphin statue, but really that just makes it worse – adding admiring the statue to the list of options for the driver. Really?!?!