By in Travel

Round and Roundabout

From the time I was a child I was familiar with traffic circles. I grew up in Bellflower, California, and we drove to Long Beach at least once a week to visit friends or relatives. A traffic circle served the intersection of Lakewood Boulevard, Pacific Coast Highway, and Los Coyotes Diagonal. Although officially it was called the Los Alamitos Traffic Circle, locals knew it simply as The Traffic Circle. After all, there weren't any other ones in Southern California that we were aware of. No one liked driving through it, but there was no other way to get where they wanted to go. So we used it. It was still there the last time I drove through there in the 1980's. While I was researching this, I discovered the old traffic circle has been converted into the more fashionable .

The reason I started thinking about this was that on our recent trip to Ventura, I got quite a shock. We habitually take either Interstate Highway 101 from Paso Robles down to State Highway 154 until we meet 101 again in Santa Barbara. This is a lovely drive through the mountains above Santa Barbara and past Cachuma Lake. You can see part of that drive in the photo above. Right click and choose open image in new tab from the drop-down menu to expand the photo.

If we are low on gasoline, we pass the 154 turnoff and continue to Beullton and take the Highway 246 turnoff, where we stop at Tom's gas station to fill up (That is Tom's Gas, located in the Albertson's center on the south side of Hwy 246, in the photo below. So far they've beat evey gas price along our route.), and then we continue down 246 through the scenic town of Solvang. This is a rural area and 246 goes past vineyards and the Chumash Casino Resort in Sana Ynez before it meets 154 again.

I took the photo.

It was at that intersection I got my big shock. It used to have a stop sign on 246. Then when safe, you would left turn onto 154 to continue to Santa Barbara. But the stop sign was gone. The intersection had been converted to a roundabout. I'm not yet sure if I like it, but I guess it's supposed to be safer, because people often did speed on 154.

The city of Paso Robles is thinking of teaming up with to put a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 46 West (the road to Cambria and Hearst Castle), where it intersects South Vine Street, the 101 on and off ramps, and Ramada Drive. I have to pass that intersection almost every day, since I live on Highway 46 West, and there's no other way to get to the east side of town or to the freeway that leads north and south. I'm hoping they don't convert this in my lifetime. I can just picture the road construction delays. It will probably be an engineering nightmare to design a roundabout that will connect all those roads.

Do you have any roundabouts near you? Do you like them?

Pictures and content are original and may not be used without permission, B. Radisavljevic, Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved

Image Credit » I took the photo

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OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on August 9, 2014, 5:25 PM

There are only two roundabouts near me that I know of. One replaced a four-way stop. The other is at the crossing of two access roads in a Walmart shopping center. That one I don't mind, but the other just seems weird to me since I was used to the four-way stop my entire life. I'm not a huge fan, but at least it's better than a four-way stop. I hate those things. I always get confused about who got there first. When it first when it, my mother told me they had a lot of roundabouts in Massachusetts c. 1960 when Daddy was stationed there. Unless there's only a limited amount of traffic, I think a red light is the safest solution.

SLGarcia wrote on August 9, 2014, 5:47 PM

I have been noticing a trend toward the use of roundabouts in the parts of the country I've been in the last few years - Minnesota, Oregon and Washington. I like them. When I was in England a number of years ago they were very common.

MegL wrote on August 9, 2014, 5:58 PM

Roundabouts are a much safer way of treating traffic that arrives from different directions, far fewer people killed or injured on roundabouts than intersections. In the UK, we go round a roundabout in a clockwise direction. We MUST "give way" to traffic that is already on the roundabout. So if the roundabout is clear, you can enter it. If traffic is coming towards you, you give it priority. That is not always the same in Europe. In some countries, they give priority to traffic ENTERING the roundabout, which I do not think is as safe. Roundabouts are safer because traffic HAS to slow down and if there is a collision, it is generally a side swipe, no head on collisions. To ensure you are safe on the roundabout, check up who should get priority, those already on the roundabout or those entering the roundabout, then there is not need to guess who got anywhere first!

vserrao1 wrote on August 9, 2014, 6:32 PM

I love driving through those Southern California mountains.

MGray wrote on August 9, 2014, 6:54 PM

New Jersey use to be notorious for roundabouts. They make me nervous.

BarbRad wrote on August 9, 2014, 6:55 PM

At least a red light leaves no doubt about what you should do.

BarbRad wrote on August 9, 2014, 6:58 PM

They are OK, but not much fun if there are some big rigs in the mix. The new roundabout we saw on 154 was fairly small - nothing like the old traffic circle in Long Beach. The double tank truck we saw approaching it could have filled up on quarter of it by itself.

BarbRad wrote on August 9, 2014, 7:00 PM

I guess they just take getting used to. I can't remember if signs were posted with directions. I was still half asleep. I didn't feel fully awake until the meeting was over.

BarbRad wrote on August 9, 2014, 7:01 PM

It is a beautiful drive. There are also a number of great view points.

BarbRad wrote on August 9, 2014, 7:02 PM

They make me nervous, too. But if they prevent accidents, I guess we'll have to get used to them.

Kasman wrote on August 9, 2014, 7:42 PM

Roundabouts are very common in the UK. They are generally preferred over traffic lights at busy junctions but occasionally a very busy junction will have both traffic lights and a roundabout! Roundabouts work to reduce accidents because they make drivers unsure how to proceed - and that makes them more cautious and careful. Provided everyone sticks to the rules roundabouts are very safe.

Kasman wrote on August 9, 2014, 7:43 PM

They work by making drivers nervous and unsure as to how to proceed! This makes most drivers more careful - and leads to less accidents.

JanetJenson wrote on August 9, 2014, 7:49 PM

MegL you make it sound so easy, but getting on is not the problem for me, it is figuring out which turn to take to get off and still get where I'm going!

Feisty56 wrote on August 9, 2014, 8:36 PM

Two roundabouts are planned for two troublesome intersections in my area. The consensus of those I've spoke with would rather four-way stops be instituted, but it will likely end up being the roundabouts.

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on August 9, 2014, 8:44 PM

That sounds like me. Just because I'm vertical by 9:30 doesn't mean my brain is going to function before noon.

bestwriter wrote on August 9, 2014, 9:18 PM

When i was holidaying in the US I used to admire how my friends and family drove around effortlessly.

BarbRad wrote on August 10, 2014, 12:00 AM

Ah! There's the rub. We haven't figured out the rules yet. They are rather new here.

BarbRad wrote on August 10, 2014, 12:01 AM

I think we like what's familiar. Probably the next generation will grow up with them and not react to them the way we are.

BarbRad wrote on August 10, 2014, 12:02 AM

In what part of the USA was this? Couldn't have been Southern California or the Bay Area during rush hour.

bestwriter wrote on August 10, 2014, 12:13 AM

I was in New jersey, Denver, San Jose and San Francisco. . We had gone to San Jose driving from San Francisco. Well compared to India where traffic rules are never followed I found what I saw pretty organised and smooth. All my contacts took me to several places and as I said there is a huge difference between India and US :)

MegL wrote on August 10, 2014, 2:30 AM

Do they not have signposts before the roundabout? In the UK, the signposts show which exit to take for which destination. They also show which direction the exit will be (left, straight ahead, right, etc) and that means you can choose the correct lane to be in well before you reach the roundabout.

paigea wrote on August 10, 2014, 2:36 PM

I grew up in a city that had quite a few. It still has some and I think they are efficient ways of moving traffic.

BarbRad wrote on August 10, 2014, 4:44 PM

I guess you skipped Chinatown in San Francisco. When I was there, everyone seemed to ignore the traffic signals. I'm surprised traffic wasn't bad between San Francisco and San Jose. Maybe it's because you were going south or it wasn't rush hour in your direction. I've never driven north toward San Jose during rush hour without a lot of traffic.

BarbRad wrote on August 10, 2014, 4:44 PM

So the traffic engineers say. I guess when you grow up with them, you get used to them.

JanetJenson wrote on August 10, 2014, 11:24 PM

MegL Here on the est coast USA I have been in some that had signs overgrown with foliage or the sign was turned around and one I missed the turn because it was between two turn-offs and I could not figure out which of the two to take. I went around 3 times before I got the wrong one. But when I was on the East Coast I went on one that was wonderful. It was very clearly marked and very pleasant to use, actually.

MegL wrote on August 11, 2014, 1:58 AM

BarbRad , a red light leaves no doubt but unfortunately, some people try to beat the red light and drunks don't see them. Crashing at red lights kills a lot more people. There are few if any deaths on roundabouts, though there may be damage only accidents.

MegL wrote on August 11, 2014, 1:59 AM

Yes, they need to be make the right size for the traffic that is likely to use them.

MegL wrote on August 11, 2014, 2:02 AM

JanetJenson , that's a shame. It should be a part of regular highway maintenance to keep road signs free of foliage and positioned correctly. Having said that, though, there have been some roundabouts that I have been round several times trying to figure out which of several exits to take and ending up going down the wrong one!

MegL wrote on August 11, 2014, 2:04 AM

Kasman that is very true! That is a very common road traffic technique and it works. Traffic slows down. less speed, more time to think. More time to think, fewer accidents.

indexer wrote on August 11, 2014, 11:51 AM

I know what a roundabout is - road systems could not exist without them - but what do you mean by a traffic circle?

Kasman wrote on August 11, 2014, 5:10 PM

Roundabouts aid in keeping the traffic flowing whereas stops would halt the traffic - sometimes even when the road is clear.