Traffic Circles Are Increasing All Around Us

What's up with all the new Traffic Circles in Georgia? 

15 years ago these circles, commonly known as roundabouts, were only popular in large European cities like Paris, or in Washington, DC, which was, in fact, designed as a smaller version of Versailles in France by Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Some streets in the Nation's Capital were laid out in a grid, others horizontally, and still others were circular. This was a wonderful effect in the Capital City, but what about elsewhere in the nation, and in particular, here in Georgia.  About 10-15 years ago Georgia had only a few dozen roundabouts and they were typically confined to small neighborhood streets in small towns.  But in recent years, they have been popping up on all kinds of roads throughout the state. 

About 144 have been built in Georgia since 2005.  More than 110 are in various stages of design, and more than 20 are under construction.  In the 1990s there were fewer than 100 roundabouts in the entire nation,  and there are now more than 2,300 according to online inventory databases  maintained by the transportation engineering firm of Kittelson & Associates.
State officials say roundabouts work pretty intuitively for drivers.  Moreover, roundabouts have proven to be safer than traditional intersections because they force motorists to slow down, and they eliminate cross-traffic turns that can lead to serious wrecks.
Some residents, however, fear that drivers just don't understand how to use them.  And they question whether enough is being done to educate motorists on the issue.

To navigate a roundabout, drivers travel counterclockwise by making a right turn into the circle after yielding to oncoming traffic.  They continue circling until they reach the road where they want to turn. Then they make a right-hand turn to exit the traffic circle.

Sounds simple enough.  But people either love them or hate them. Here are a couple of testimonies:
Lewis Corley, 58, said the roundabout in Duluth at the 3 way intersection of West Lawrenceville St, McClure Bridge Rd and Irvindale Rd flows pretty smoothly. "I'm surprised that it works so well because most of the drivers I encounter down here,  drive like they think yield signs and stop signs are just suggestions,"  he says laughing.  Sabrina Anne Hembree, 43 of Lawrenceville, lives down the street from a roundabout at Hutchins Rd and Arnold Rd, an intersection where there used to be a lot of accidents   because of poor visibility and speeding drivers.  Now it flows smoothly, she said.  "I have yet to see or hear about an accident.  Many others commented that even in high congestive areas, the roundabout was much easier to get into and out of than expected. Surveys are showing that many residents opposed the traffic circles before they were installed, but have been quite pleased with them once they are in and used and now are requesting more be installed in their neighborhoods.

As with anything new, there is a learning curve on its use.  Traffic Circles are no exception and GDOT booklets only address entering a single lane roundabout, but most that are installed are 3 lanes installations.  A few people just stop rather than yielding  and entering the traffic in a roundabout, or out of ignorance, just drive straight into the traffic without yielding, causing tie ups outside and inside the roundabout. But for the most part, the traffic circles are well received and the benefits keep increasing.

Some benefits of the Roundabouts include a78% reduction in injury crashes over signalized intersections, an 82% reduction in injury crashes over two-way stop controlled intersections,  a 75% reduction in conflict points over a traditional 4-way intersection, a 100% reduction in crossing conflict points over a traditional 4-way intersection, increased safety for pedestrians because of the low-speed environment, becomes a good alternatives for intersections of more than 4 roads or intersections with difficult skew angles, generates an overall reduced footprint, and they result in a reduction in cost, as there are no stop & go lights to install or technology to constantly keep upgrading.

So... let's not beat AROUND the bush.  Let's install more ROUNDABOUTS!  They're a sure bet!