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How to Drive a Roundabout

September 13th, 2010 @ 11:27am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

I learned to drive in Surrey where, with a lack of frequent and sufficient transit service or bike routes at the time, driving was the top option for getting around. When I moved to Vancouver I sold my car and went pedestrian for about five straight years. Getting that perspective, especially living downtown, was an eye-opener in terms of the way traffic flows in this city. Now that I have a vehicle for the first time in about five years, I’m experiencing downtown from the other side of the wheel. While we try to only use our vehicle for weekend getaways out of town, on occasion I find myself in the midst of heavy commuter traffic or sometimes the most bizarre driving feats (wrong way down a one-way street, backing up all the way down a road etc.).

roundabout-vancouver-5050
Photo credit: Spacing Magazine on Flickr

With school back in session and commuters returning from vacation, the streets of Vancouver just got busier. Living in the West End, roundabouts (or traffic circles) have replaced two or four-way stops in order to keep traffic calmed. You can also spot a giant roundabout at UBC (on 16th) or down a Highway 99 exit in Surrey. They can also help the flow of cars run more smoothly however I’m noticing a serious lack of knowledge when it comes to using roundabouts. I decided to head to the internet for a bit of an education in using traffic circles. What I found was a helpful video, produced in Ohio. After sharing it on Twitter last week I thought it was deserving of its own post.

If you’re unsure, it’s always better to proceed with caution and yield. Drivers just need to take their time (and get off their hand-held phones) in order to ensure everyone arrives at their destination safe and sound.

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  • 7 comments

    1. p. says:

      Wow, I can’t believe this warranted a blog post. Isn’t this in the manual for new drivers? It should be. And I’m not sure that video will help for the mini roundabouts in the West End.

      Everyone, please just be courteous when driving. It won’t kill you if your trip took a few seconds longer to wave someone through an intersection or roundabout. However, if you don’t, then that could (kill).

    2. Rebecca Bollwitt says:

      I know, it’s pretty crazy. At least once a week I see someone do a left turn in front of the roundabout instead of going around it to do the turn.

    3. Jenny says:

      We have the same mini roundabouts on our street and it’s scary how few people actually know what to do. It seems like common sense to me but I’d estimate that at least 60% of the drivers I encounter don’t know what to do. I love roundabouts like the large ones in S.Surrey, they help traffic flow much easier. Some of the larger ones in the UK are pretty freaky though.

    4. Coming from England – I love roundabouts! They’re so efficient used properly.I had to laugh when I saw a “how to” sign on one in the US recently. The hardest part is when you go to the UK and the traffic flow comes from the opposite side – scary!

    5. Bonnie says:

      I’m seeing more and more of these roundabouts. Are they really better than 4 way stops?

    6. TGX says:

      Thanks for this – as a newcomer to Vancouver, and the micro roundabouts – there is a lot of confusion on how to use these. I see people giving right of way to people not in the roundabout. And while this may be in the New Driver Handbook – most people after they get their license never revisit the Driver Handbook. I know when I was 16 and lived in Ottawa – there were no roundabouts or micro roundabouts so any lesson on this has since been long forgotten. I still think there should be a video on the micro ones and it should be an ICBC advertisement. As for safer than a 4 way – you bet ya – how many people actually get a 4 way correctly – especially when there are two people stopped at the same time – and they are perpendicular to each other – almost no one gets the – person on your right rule. Who’s right – my right, their right?

    7. Gru says:

      You poor people. These are not a micro Roundabouts. The rules are completely different. I also moved to downtown recently and was amazed at lack of knowledge about these types of intersections. I just phoned ICBC and licencing department to make sure I was not wrong. They just confirmed what I already knew for 20 years of driving. These intersections are not roundabouts, they are just regular intersections with no signs, where there is an isle in the middle to slow the traffic down. The RULE is very simple, slow down, if there is a car on the right side coming at the same time, yield to that car. I just wrote to VPD Traffic department, and I will write to ICBC, local gov, local TV stations and whoever will listen. This has to STOP!!!!! It is dangerous and someone will get hurt or worse.

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