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November 25, 2010


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Mike Dodds

I can't believe I agree completely with something Jim Kenzie has written.

Danny Schmuck

In my part of Quebec, there are 4 roundabouts. There are two in a row just coming off the autoroute in Bromont, yet still people don't know how to use them. When properly used, it is poetry in motion.


This is an area where size matters. The roundabout above looks like a great idea. They become less useful as the radius shrinks and the traffic has to drive around more slowly. With land adjacent to major roads often sold at premium prices, municipalities have an incentive to shrink the radius to the point of inconvenience (though they'd call it traffic calming).

An example of a roundabout that's too small is on the access road to Victoria International Airport. It's tight enough that tractor-trailers have to slow to a crawl and drive over the top of it across a curb-like banking. An ultimately minimalist example, the UK simply paints some roundabouts as circles onto the centre of a normal intersection. That's far less cool.

I'm a fan of roundabouts, but only when they're a decent size.


I was driving up near Ancaster this past summer (Wilson St. IIRC) and drove around a traffic circle. Other drivers didn't seem to have any problem negotiating it, either.


There is probably a single one in Newmarket on Fernbank road which I tried. It was therapeutic. The stop signs felt harsh afterwards.


Turn to turn circles and reduce fatal crashes. Lorraine Summerfield says "roundabouts require a change in thinking". Educating drivers would help. Are there any car shows on the boob tube that could spare a minute to inform drivers about roundabouts? Sporty car drivers may be tempted to explore their limits of adhesion (guilty) but most folks slow down in them. When I was 16 I used to go around and around turn circles with a car load of friends until someone thought of someplace to go!We would end at an A&W in my 455 Olds Delmont convertible. I would keep my studded snow tires on to provide a spark show for all my fans when we left!


Hey Jim, if it's so cool to import the roundabout idea from Europe, why do you continue to insist that importing European style bike lanes could never work here?

Like a wise man once said: Europe is Europe and Canada is Canada


Jim, I'm a fan of roundabouts, but this one is a major problem waiting to happen. As designed, tractor trailers require both lanes to get around even a fraction of the circle. Cars are to yield BOTH lanes to trucks when the latter enter. A good idea, very poorly implemented. Fail.

Carlos Marques


You have to count exits to know which one is yours - or keep circling and then take a guess at which exit is yours. Once in the round-about you do not have the helpful signs to tell you which exit is which. Even Europeans complain about this problem.

Also giving people directions is way more difficult if the round-about has more than 3 (North, West, South, East) exits.

Carlos Marques

Quick question: What's the procedure to clear the snow from a round-about?

If the plow keeps circling the round-about, it will build snow banks at all entrances and exits.

If it enters the round-about and exits the opposite side (to keep going down Jeanne d'Arc for instance) it will leave snow banks in the round-about for traffic coming along St. Joseph.

Roundabout Fan

Jim, there are more locations in Ontario where roundabouts have been installed.

On of these locations is here in Richmond Hill on Tower Hill Road just north of Gamble Road and runs east-west between Bathurst St and Yonge St. This street has four intersections that would ordinariliy no doubt be signed with four-way stop signs. However, the first three (running West to East) have been constructed as roundabouts. For some reason the Town of Richmond Hill reverted to a three-way stop for the last intersection.

These roundabouts work perfectly by reducing unneccessary stops and starts, slows traffic...far better than speed bumps/sleeping policemen.


Popular in NZ and Aussie


David White

No trees please....anything that hinders visibility on the island should be removed.

Jim Kenzie

Hi Mike:

Welcome back from The Dark Side!!


Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi Lars:

You're right - but it also works the other way. In Britain, as roundabouts became more popular in the 1960s and they started using them on Motorway 'cloverleafs', they often made the radii TOO big, ostensibly to handle greater traffic flow.

But the whole point of a roundabout is that traffic has to slow down (NOT stop!), then re-accelerate. This creates the gaps in traffic which allow other vehicles to merge into the flow.

If the roundabout radius is too large and you can scoot right through it without even lifting, then it doesn't work properly.

The cool graphic I mentioned on the home page of Oursten web site shows a fairly standard-looking suburban crossroad morphing into a roundabout, and it takes no more land area than the old-style intersection.

In some cases, it takes even less because you may no longer need dedicated right- or left-turn lanes.

The layouts of some British cities may date back to the Romans! The streets are indeed very narrow, and the 'mini-roundabouts' - the painted-on ones you mention - are the only option.

Theoretically, as I understand it, you can get fined if you drive on the paint, but as is plain to see, a lot of people do it!

Still, the principle applies, and it works very well.

I don't recall that I have ever driven to the Victoria Airport; now that my sister has moved to Sydney I may soon get that chance!

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi RX:

From an Olds Convertible to an RX-7? Now, there's a story...

Yes, roundabouts take a bit of acclimatization (Lorraine is WAY smart enough to figure them out).

But really, all they are is Yield signs combined with 'bear-rights'.

You stop if you have to, but not if there's a gap in the traffic that will allow you to proceed.

We will be starting to shoot our next sequence of Motoring TV shows on TSN soon (Motoring 2011 - I think we're now in something like our 24th year? Holy cow - that's Front Page Challenge territory...).

I'll see if I can get Brad to do something on how to handle roundabouts.

Hey - the Brits and the French are no smarter than we are...

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi Luke:

A wise, WISE man indeed...

We have imported many things from Europe that work (e.g., democracy, parliamentary government, my ancestors and - I'm guessing from your last name - your ancestors too).

There are lots of things we have not imported from Europe (e.g., a long history of countries invading each other) because they DON'T work.

The key is to be - ahem - wise enough to know the difference...



Jim Kenzie

Hi Chris:

Thousands of roundabouts in dozens of countries suggest that this is not a problem at all.



Not merely a Pass, but Summa cum Laude!

Jim Kenzie

Jim Kenzie

Hi Carlos:

This is where some experience with the concept comes in handy. You learn to read the signs before you arrive at the roundabout, and you know well in advance how far you have to go.

If the signs are properly done as (in my experience) they are in England, it's easy as pie.

As for directions, I thought I invented this idea when I was preparing route instructions for one of my 'Auto Fantasy Tours' in England which I organized some years ago, but found out later (from the 'Great Minds Think Alike' file) that I hadn't!

You simply use a clock metaphor.

"In at six, out at two."

"In at six, out at nine."

"In at six [always in at six], out at 11."

My guests, most of whom had never driven on the 'wrong' side of the road before, let alone ever negotiated a roundabout, picked it up right smartly.


Jim Kenzie

Hello Carlos (again!):

Excellent question. I can only assume Orleans understands that snow is a big part of their lives!

I'll also contact Oursten (the designers/engineers of the roundabout) and see what they say.

For sure, as we found out in Toronto two winters ago when we had much greater snowfall than usual (Global Warming, anyone?...) the snow piled up on the street corners too, creating huge visibility issues for everyone until the road crews could bulldoze and truck it all away.

I'll post an update when I get some info.


Jon Fage

In response to Carlos' comment on exiting a roundabout...

Waterloo Region roundabouts have small directional signs in them that indicate which road you are exiting the roundabout onto.

Ditto to the comments regarding big trucks in roundabouts - there is a fair amount of truck traffic that tends to slow down the roundabout on Townline Road/Canamera Parkway in Cambridge.

Waterloo Region has made progress by implementing roundabouts, but they are far from perfect. The roundabout at Conestoga Parkway and Canamera in Cambridge is perched awkwardly on a hillside, so drivers are going up and down in addition to going round and round. Feels a bit like a carnival ride. This roundabout also suffers from a disappearing right lane when exiting eastbound onto Canamera. Jim, get on that one now!!!

See the Waterloo Region roundabout site at the link below.



I live in New Zealand. I have been driving since 1986 and we have had roundabouts for as long as I can remember. They work very well.


From what I have heard, to people who own corner houses, the huge front lawn is a nuisance. So you would actually be doing them a favour by placing a round about there!


It helps to see. I agree with the "no trees" idea. As much as I participate in the arts (a lot) I do not think this is a place for art either, of any kind, or advertisement of any event....keep it well lit. I have only had one problem with it, while heading to a Church in Orleans (pentacostal for a school concert) in the morning during a snow-storm I took St.Joseph from 10th line, it took over 45 minutes because the slow spot was the roundabout.

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