General Question

TROLL's avatar

Do you have roundabouts in the USA?

Asked by TROLL (378points) May 19th, 2009

I am aware that your traffic system is based on traffic lights and juntions,is there anywhere in the USA that has Roundabouts and if not why not?

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36 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Yes, but they are called traffic circles and have slightly different rules-of-the-road.


TROLL's avatar


Likeradar's avatar

They’re becoming more common in my area, and people have pretty much no idea how to use them.

janbb's avatar

Actually, here in New Jersey we have had traffic circles for many years and in the past twenty years or so, the have removed a number of them. Just recently, they have changed some of them to roundabouts and added some new ones. (See link to differences in Gail’s post above.) As you can imagine, this can be very confusing, althought the small one they put in in front of my school instead of a traffic light seems to work very well.

knitfroggy's avatar

We got one here in town a few years ago, it was like a really big deal don’t ask me why My folks live near it and my mom will drive around it really fast like 25 mph and make vroom noises to make my kids laugh…it kinda freaks me out.

hearkat's avatar

@janbb: If you can drive in New Jersey, you can drive anywhere! LOL

gailcalled's avatar


One could also say that about downtown Boston. The MA. highway dept takes sadistic delight in hanging signage that become covered with leaves in the spring, or have faded paint or have been turned around by snow plows.

RareDenver's avatar


Ever done the Millfield challenge? You have to do a full circuit around the Millfield roundabout on the York Bypass (near Poppleton) without dropping below 40mph

jbfletcherfan's avatar

It always makes me think of Richard & Hiacynth Bucket going round & round.

Lightlyseared's avatar

My particular favourite roundabout is the magic roundabout in Swindon (UK) which you can drive around in both directions.

hearkat's avatar

@gailcalled: Yes! I drove in Boston about 5 years ago… it was a nightmare!

gailcalled's avatar

@jbfletcherfan : That’s “Bouquet,” for the purists. Richard is the most beleagureed fictional character on TV reruns, don’t you think.

@hearkat: If you are trying to find the entrance to the Mass. Pike heading towards Albany and are coming from Harvard Square and down Storrow Drive. on the B school side, you end up at the dock yard in S. Boston (that’s on a good day).

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@gailcalled LOLLL, yes. I always tell my husband that I think he should go on a road trip with her. He’s really appreciate me more, hahaa.

cwilbur's avatar

@gailcalled: Was that before the Big Dig or after? And is there construction on Storrow Drive or Memorial Drive that routes you through a maze of one-way streets?

The shortest route to my apartment from points south involves directions like “Get in the middle lane. If you wait until you see why you should be in the middle lane, you’ll wind up in Allston.” The shortest route to my apartment from points north involves directions like “DO NOT MISS THIS TURN or you will wind up in Davis Square. You have been warned.”

Tobotron's avatar

funny thing is you Americans actually invented them, only you don’t seem to use them as much as we do, there all over Europe only it would seem only the British manage to use them properly ;)

Tobotron's avatar

I lied I remember in Belgium and the Netherlands there better than us, they even give priority to cyclists and pedestrians entering and exiting which is complicated but a nice touch…

robmandu's avatar

Here’s one near my office.

In my experience, each traffic circle in the US presents its own unique set of rules.

This particular circle is 2 lane. The inner lane has the option of exiting directly either north or south, but not to the east or west roads. And that means that the outer circle MUST exit either north or south… or risk broad-siding an inner lane car that opts to take the exit for which they have right-of-way.


TROLL's avatar

@robmandu sounds like they’ve had a big influence on

Tobotron's avatar

@robmandu seems a bit strange you can’t enter from the south and use the inner lane to exit on the west, if I understood you right…we have some 3–4 lane roundabouts here sounds daunting but there quite easy because there signposted so people ‘shouldn’t’ go jumping around lanes…maybe America doesn’t love them because its so used to grid systems, lights and open roads, compared with European winding narrow roads and medieval city road designs that really don’t appreciate cars lol. eg I hate driving in London!

elijah's avatar

“Look kids, Big Ben!”

robmandu's avatar

@Tobotron, to use your example, if exits from the inner lane were allowed to the east/west streets, then the outer lane would have no where to go really.

The idea for this particular circle is that the majority of traffic runs north/south and so it’s optimized for that plan.

I’m sure they could restripe/re-sign it should those needs ever change.

Still, I figure there’s a couple of close calls and honked horns every day.

lillycoyote's avatar

@gailcalled LOL. I live in Delaware and they just started putting them in around here, However, I’m not sure you should listen to what DelDOT has to say about traffic circles. The designed and built them only to discover that tractor trailers could not maneuver through them. Now they have to rebuild them.

Edit: The link doesn’t seem to work but this is the text of the press release that was there.
Press Release—February 27, 2008

TRAFFIC ALERT – Traffic Roundabout Modifications Will Begin on Thursday, February 28 at Bunker Hill Road

Middletown—The Department of Transportation (DelDOT) announces daytime intermittent lane restrictions on Bunker Hill at Choptank Road in Middletown for the re-construction of a traffic roundabout. The project will begin on Thursday, February 28 and end on Friday, March 21, weather permitting. The contractor for this rehabilitation project will be Greggo & Ferrara, Inc.

DelDOT has been working with farmers to re-design the roundabout. The center island and the apron will be reduced to allow farm machinery and tractor-trailers to have more room to navigate the roundabout.

“Roundabout” is a circular intersection that moves traffic counterclockwise around a central island. In addition, the design of a roundabout reduces the need for direct left turns, which are the major reason for intersection crashes, thereby increasing the overall safety aspect of the intersection.

Traffic alerts and traveler information are available at or tune to WTMC-AM 1380.

adreamofautumn's avatar

We have them in New England (in certain areas up here they’re called “rotaries” not roundabouts). I’m a big fan of them, speeds things up considerably.

cak's avatar

They are being used quite a bit in the area where I live. In neighborhoods and several have replaced traditional intersections on heavily used secondary roads. They do keep traffic moving, I just wish more people understood the proper way to use them.

oratio's avatar

Yeah, I guess there is a change towards traffic circles in many countries. In sweden they are everywhere nowadays. Like you say @cak they keep the traffic moving.

Rave90's avatar

We have one here in missouri by a new casino and hotel.. I don’t see why we needed one out here :) not a lot of traffic

YARNLADY's avatar

There a few in new housing developments in the suburbs. They put several in some downtown intersections, but had to remove them, due to misuse and sabotage.

Tobotron's avatar

sabotaging a roundabout, I have never heard of that lol

charliecompany34's avatar

yes, we do, but only in neighborhoods that try to be or seem to be affluent and on the cutting edge of transportation. i know of one in my neighborhood and it does ease the flow of traffic

Kayak8's avatar

Roundabouts and traffic circles are two different animals. This is exhaustively explained by traffic engineers at this website:

At the link above are also examples of US roundabout installations in Utah and other locals.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Tobotron They were called traffic circles here, and people hated them.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Kayak8 Wow! That link, everything you ever wanted to know about roundabouts and much, much, much more!:)

oratio's avatar

So in a traffic circle you don’t have to yield at entry as in a roundabout?

Kayak8's avatar

From the aforementioned website:

Roundabouts vs. Traffic Circles

A roundabout is a circular intersection similar to the traffic circle previously used in this country. The major differences between a traffic circle and a roundabout are:

Yield at Entry
At roundabouts the entering traffic yields the right-of-way to the circulating traffic. This yield-at-entry rule prevents traffic from locking-up and allows free flow movement.

The entry and center island of a roundabout deflects entering traffic to slow traffic and reinforce the yielding process.

The entry to a roundabout often flares out from one or two lanes to two or three lanes at the yield line to provide increased capacity.

Why Use a Roundabout?

Safety—Roundabouts have been shown to reduce fatal and injury accidents as much as 76% in the USA, 75% in Australia and 86% in Great Britain. The reduction in accidents is attributed to slower speeds and reduced number of conflict points (see Figure 2).

Pedestrian Safety—All research suggests that modern roundabouts are safer than signalized intersections for pedestrians. This safety advantage has been attributed to the slower traffic speed at roundabouts and the division of the pedestrian crossing into two stages, from the near-side wheelchair ramp out to the splitter island, and then from the splitter island to the far-side wheelchair ramp. In each stage the pedestrian has to look in only one direction to cross a one-way traffic stream. Pedestrian refuges are provided in the areas within the splitter islands.

Low Maintenance—Eliminates maintenance costs associated with traffic signals which amount to approximately \\$3,500 per year per intersection. In addition, electricity costs are reduced with a savings of approximately $1,500 per year per intersection.

Reduced Delay—By yielding at the entry rather than stopping and waiting for a green light, delay is significantly reduced.

Capacity—Intersections with a high volume of left turns are better handled by a roundabout than a multi-phased traffic signal.

Aesthetics—A reduction in delay corresponds to a decrease in fuel consumption and air pollution. In addition, the central island provides an opportunity to provide landscaping.
Figure 2: Conflict Points on a Regular 4-way Intersection Compared to a Modern Roundabout Intersection

There are even diagrams on the website . . .

cak's avatar

@Kayak8 – great link. That’s why I was careful about calling the ones near us, roundabouts. North Carolina has been using more and more roundabouts for the last decade and they are careful to define between roundabouts and traffic circles.

A_Beaverhausen's avatar

yes. in Michigan. i hate them tho. people drive like idiots.

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