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I drove back or forth from New York to Cape Cod four times in the last eight days dropping off our girlies for Camp Grandma. Right over the Bourne Bridge are two huge roundabouts and the traffic often backs up for miles and nervous American drivers freak out at the rules of when to enter and when not. It’s a huge problem, and, for me an annoyance, having driven for a year at Cambridge a few years back, with a right-hand drive car, on thousands of roundabouts. roundabout.bmp
At the time, I joked at the Cambridge Union that in England the fastest way between two points was around a roundabout, and I kind of hated them. But in the last week I was actually realizing their virtues — IF Americans could figure out how to use them.
Well, it looks like we better. The Economist (of course) talks about the surge of roundabouts in America. Here’s a summary from the WSJ:

The growing use of roundabouts in the U.S. to speed the flow of vehicles couldn’t have come too soon, says the Economist, a United Kingdom-based newsweekly whose home country sports some 10,000 traffic circles. The newest roundabouts are more efficient and safer than their predecessors, the Economist says. Modern designs have mechanisms for slowing down traffic as it approaches the roundabout. They also don’t allow pedestrians to walk into the middle of the circle, a common feature of older roundabouts such as Manhattan’s Columbus Circle.
Precise statistics aren’t available, but according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are about 1,000 modern-style roundabouts in the U.S. Some 150 to 250 circles are being added every year. In Washington state, there are now more than 100, the state transportation department says, up from 17 in 2001. But the U.S. still sharply trails more roundabout-friendly nations;Australia has 15,000, while France has 20,000.
Good things come from roundabouts, the Economist says. They eliminate the need for traffic lights, which are costly to build and maintain. When traffic is light, cars don’t need to stop, reducing fuel use and pollution. And despite many drivers’ skepticism, roundabouts cut down on accidents, mainly by doing away with potentially dangerous left turns at intersections. A 2001 study by the Insurance Institute found that roundabouts have 80% fewer crashes with injuries than ordinary intersections. That is a potentially substantial reduction, since 45% of all automobile collisions in the U.S. occur at intersections.

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