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Roundabouts can turn problems around

24.01.2014

I’m sure many of you are starting to feel the same as me - I’m getting rather tired of spending my life idling along in traffic. While I know the large volume of cars is the primary contributor, it doesn’t help when traffic flow is disrupted by pointless traffic lights.

Picture it: I’m on my way to work, stuck in the daily rat race we call traffic when suddenly the road clears and we can cruise at a steady speed only to be forced to come to a halt at a red robot. Not a single car crosses the intersection from the other side. By the time the light changes to green for us again, the cars are tightly packed like sardines again and we have to drive in congested traffic again.

This stress-inducing situation has become an almost daily occurrence, which got me thinking: traffic lights disrupt traffic flow because it usually stops two directions of traffic at one time. So why haven’t we started using traffic circles on a broader scale? I have been fortunate enough to drive in Europe and a lot of cities have done away with robots, using roundabouts instead to ease congestion.

The research seems to show that they are going about it the right way, because in roundabouts, all directions of traffic are often kept open, which results in better flow of traffic.But besides the fact that congestion is eased, the US Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration in America has identified that at least 20 people are killed at intersection collisions every day in the USA.

It’s a scary statistic, so it’s no wonder then that the United States is starting to adopt roundabouts too. Because besides the fact that it can lower the instances of crashes,studies have shownthat the severity of an accident is far less, mostly due to the angles of collisions.

Furthermore, a study of various intersections in America revealed that traffic delays were reduced by some 23% overall and around 89% in vehicle delays in roundabouts where traffic lights were once used.

I guess the problem in South Africa is most motorists don’t know how to use robots and the meaning of a red light,so implementing large-scale traffic circles could result in utter chaos as many people drive with an “it’s all about me” attitude.

But beyond easing traffic congestion, traffic circles offer motorists other benefits like increased fuel efficiency because you aren’t sitting annoyingly at a robot. They might even offer government a reprieve, because the lifecycle and maintenance costs of roundabouts are substantially lower. This is mostly due to the fact that they don’t have traffic lights that need repairs and have lower long-term operational costs, particularly after every light drizzle of rain.

Apparently one of the biggest concerns in countries looking to adopt roundabouts is the fear that the public won’t accept them. However, I think that if those in power propose a system like this, many motorists will raise their hands with glee.
The fact that it’s a proven safety solution, one just needs to look at those smaller traffic circles we now find in suburbs. Their primary use might be to reduce speed, but they work better than four-way stops and keep traffic moving.

Technology is fast evolving. Our phones, computers and even cars are constantly being updated to make life easier. Why then is commuting to work becoming an ever-increasing drain incident? We need smarter roads and while Sanral like to think they have done this by improving our highways, the fact that people can’t exit them easily makes it all seem like a waste of time. William Nicol is a prime example, as all the on-ramps and off-ramps connect like a bowl of noodles and when it rains and the traffic lights go out, it’s a motorist’s nightmare that not even Stephan King could’ve written.

Truthfully, the lights don’t even need to be off, but it does escalate the problem.
Perhaps if William Nicol had a modern roundabout it could alleviate the traffic. I don’t know. What I do know is, because it recently received an upgrade, it won’t, for a very long time.

As simple as traffic circles may be, they may be the solution to faster flowing traffic that’s if the research is anything to go by.
We want to know your thoughts on traffic circles VS traffic lights and do you think the South African motorist could adopt a new way of driving?

Article written by Sean Nurse
24.01.2014
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