Will Roundabout be "Traffic Calming Circle" or "CRASH?"

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By Becky Barnes

Think Hank Jr.: Are you ready for the roundabout?

It doesn’t matter. It’s opening Friday and, ready or not, you may find yourself “circling the spoke” more than once.
In our traffic light- and 4-way stop riddled town, the roundabout might be something that works if we give it a try.
How many times have you pulled to a four-way stop, knowing you were the last of the other three cars to arrive, yet no one moves?
You search out the other drivers’ faces only to find them motioning you ahead. (That’s if you can see through their over-tinted windows).
So, now you are No. 1 where you should be No. 4 to move into the intersection.
The dilemma becomes whether or not the other two drivers want you to go first. If not, CRASH!
If I remember correctly from my driver’s manual some 40 years ago, the first to arrive at an intersection is the first to advance. However, should two arrive at the same time, it is the vehicle to the right that should push on.
Now, here in the south, that may not be how it actually goes.
If the driver to the right knows his or her southern manners better than Kentucky’s Drivers’ Handbook, he or she may give the familiar motion with his hand to indicate that you should go ahead.
It reminds me of a gentleman opening a door for a woman or elder.
Now, regardles of that warm fuzzy feeling settling in your gut, that’s not the way the traffic flow is supposed to go no matter how mannerly we believe it is.
The roundabout will allow all those with a genteel disposition to put those good intentions to work.
It’s “stop” vs. “yield” at a roundabout.
Once you  get on the roundabout and you see approaching vehicles from the other spokes, allow them to merge into traffic to maintain the flow in a counter-clockwise motion.
We have all approached the traffic circle at the U.S. 27 South and U.S. 62 exchange with anxiety or disdain.
According to information released by Nancy Wood, public information officer with the District 6 Department of Transportation, these roundabouts are also known as “traffic calming circles.”
Nancy said last week while we were discussing Friday’s opening of the bypass that she has been notified that people believed the red pavement areas within and around the traffic circle are sidewalks.
They are not, she explained.
Those reddish paved areas are truck aprons which allows more room for trucks to make the tight circle.
Nancy also said the size of the circle is a safety feature because it makes those who approach it slow down.
It could work.
I’ve heard all the comments, from someone wanting to set a chair in the middle to watch the chaos to being there to get pictures of all the fender benders as they occur and so on.
I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt. I’m going to trust that our southern heritage will burst forth and we will all allow for those wanting to merge to ease in front of us, just like the courteous motorist who motions everyone ahead at the 4-way.
These traffic circles, already popular in Europe, are gaining in popularity around the United States, it won’t be long until they are even more widely used.
We may see them at our vacation spots or on business trips. After a turn or two around the one south of town, we may all get the experience we need to be traffic circle experts.
Nancy also raised safety as a for consideration.
A standard intersection will have what traffic experts call 32 potential vehicular conflict points, which basically means there are that many places in a 4-way intersection that vehicles could collide. The roundabout reduces those conflict points to eight.
Also, traffic is always on the move. So if you are a Toyota commuter, you should less likely to be caught in a gridlock at the roundabout unlike having to sit through two or more light changes after your shift.
Ideally, you’ll be able to merge onto the circle and right back off again.
I feel certain there is going to be a learning or adjusting period. However, I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to test our skills with just the U.S. 62 option, before throwing U.S. 27 North, South and downtown at us.
I’ve been a naysayer about the roundabout and joined in more than one comedic discussion about how many times someone will go around before figuring how to get off.
After reading Nancy’s Roundabout 101 instructions, I’m withholding comment.
We’ll see how Friday goes with the opening of the bypass and more incoming traffic on the circle.