July 22, 2009
There’s an interesting article in Slate about the advantages of rotaries instead of lighted intersections. One correction, though, of the article: it claims that what we call “rotaries” here in the Boston area (it says the Northeast, but the term is limited to Boston and environs) are really just traffic circles, not the roundabouts one finds in, say, Britain. This is false. Rotaries in Boston are exactly the same as roundabouts. Cars entering the rotary must yield to the traffic on the rotary. They are generally very small and do not have traffic lights. They are ubiquitous here, but are almost entirely absent from roads in the rest of the country. They are features of Boston’s driving landscape just as, say, 4-way stops are in Chicago.
The biggest problem with rotaries is that out-of-towners who are not used to them get spooked by them and often confuse who has the right-of-way. Particularly to the uninitiated, they feel awkward and unsafe, but the truth is they are very safe – significantly safer (and more efficient) than the use of traffic lights.