Dear Quandary: Why is Summit County so infatuated with roundybouts?
August 23, 2016
Why is Summit County so infatuated with roundybouts? People who can't go straight and stop are not likely to be able to turn and merge. Do you have an opinion?
Willy go round in circles
Maybe it’s just the scarcity that makes these spins around the block intimidating: that momentary realization that you are entering uncharted territory, and the rules of the road
— that handbook you immediately lost after driver’s ed
— didn’t prepare you for this madness.
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You know how you hear a story about the rise in skin cancer and the horrors of the sun and you immediately put on a hat, long-sleeve shirt and sunscreen? It's kind of like that. At this point Summit's traffic has surpassed what our roads were really ever intended for, so why not throw everything but the kitchen sink at the problem? It's also the same reason housing and parking have become the biggest issues on everyone's mind. There are just so many people.
Enter the roundabout.
The beauty of the roundabout is that it can increase traffic volume by up to 30 percent for a given roadway. Instead of sitting in a long queue praying that the light is long enough that you can make it, people are supposed to yield and proceed in an orderly fashion through the circle, as traffic flow allows. Now it doesn't always work like that, sometimes you do still end up in a queue, for the exact reason you were discussing Willy: People don't know what to do. You all make fun of a deer in headlights, but have you ever seen a tourist at a roundabout? Same fear-of-God look, same speed.
Maybe it's just the scarcity that makes these spins around the block intimidating: that momentary realization that you are entering uncharted territory, and the rules of the road — that handbook you immediately lost after driver's ed — didn't prepare you for this madness. Well have no fear, the goat is here. The only rules in the world of roundabouts are to yield to those in the circle and use a turn signal when exiting. Everything else kind of depends on the situation. Some roundabouts have two lanes, others just one. Some go in full circles, some force you to exit early. Each roundabout is a sparkling individual and needs to be treated as such. Fall back to your go-to defense in case of a speeding ticket and "just go with the flow of traffic."
I know, in the modern world of rule books and litigation it sounds fool-hardy to simply pay attention, but trust me it works. Think about this for a second: There are no traffic signals in the wilderness, and yet very few unintentional head-to-head goat collisions. You might call it a sixth sense that keeps us wildlife from plowing into each other, but personally I just call it sense. Give it a shot for a day: Put down the Pokemon, greet the day head on and see how much your life improves just by witnessing it.
Now, in case that seems just too taxing for a weekend, have no fear, roundabouts were built to keep you protected as well. By having to slow down drastically to enter the roundabout you are less likely to hurt yourself when you do mess up and go all battering-ram style on a Dodge Charger. Personal injury crashes are reduced by 80-90 percent in a roundabout compared with a traditional intersection. That's not to say you won't still need to plunge some dents, but at least your beautiful face will be OK.
Finally, people at a higher pay grade than this old goat find roundabouts valuable for the forced cooperation they cause. When cars have to slow down, it makes it easier for bicyclists to also fall in line with traffic and pedestrians have an easier time crossing the road. In a typical intersection it can take up to two minutes to get a signal, whereas peds can generally cross each leg of a roundabout with only a two- to eight-second delay. It's also very entertaining when people have to just keep going around in circles, but I supposed that's just an unintended consequence.
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