Running Around In Circles

No, I’m not talking about the Republican Party (although I could be).  I refer here to a comment from last week’s post about traffic:

Unfortunately the only “foreign” traffic design feature that the local traffic “engineers” are looking to implement are traffic circles.

Yeah, I see a couple of these foul things have appeared just north of me, in Frisco TX.

Traffic circles work only under two sets of circumstances:

  1. When there’s absolutely no other traffic (e.g. at 4am), and
  2. If they’re located in Britain, where drivers are more polite and courteous.  (Not valid in Manchester, Sheffield or Liverpool.)

Don’t even get me started about New Fucking Jersey, where (unlike anywhere else in the entire world), cars entering  the circle have the right of way over cars already in  the circle.  How I survived that day is almost enough to turn one into a theist (guardian angels, etc. etc.).

And if any Murkin starts preaching at me about the superiority of circles over regular intersections, I invite him to rent a car in Paris, drive around the Arc de Triomphe, and emerge unscathed (in mind as well as vehicularly).

And anytime someone has a bright idea about “improving” traffic conditions in the U.S., I feel they should first test them on the Long Island Expressway, during rush hour.


  1. I recall hearing a few years back that NJ was actually removing some traffic circles. A good rule of thumb is that if NJ has decided something is a bad idea, it’s probably not a good idea to implement it where you are.

    An idiosyncrasy of driving in PA is that a right-lane will open up for a mile or so, then disappear. This happens on an upgrade, and it gives trucks a slow lane to use so the rest of us aren’t stuck behind a truck going 40 mph in a 65 mph zone (and sometimes the trucks are straining to do 40). PA has some serious upgrades. My brother-in-law, who lives in NJ and has a vacation home in the same community I now live in has noted that he burns MUCH more gas driving from NJ to PA than the other way, because NJ to PA is uphill all the way (and not just geographically).

  2. In “Innocents Abroad” Mark Twain claimed that the old time traffic circles in Europe were built as such to give government artillery long range fields of fire and keep the riff raff under control. That idea might have some merit, particularly in New Jersey, but it’s sad to see how incredibly stupid ideas are rediscovered every generation of two by people who have no clue. I spent the first 28 years of my life as a passenger and then driver in Jersey and I am a firm believer in divine intervention. The happiest day of my life was to see “Welcome to New Jersey” in my rear view mirror.

    1. ” The happiest day of my life was to see “Welcome to New Jersey” in my rear view mirror.”
      The happiest of mine was seeing the “Welcome to Delaware” sign when my wife and I escaped from the Peoples Republik of Neu Joisey about 19 years ago.

      Being a fan of Kim’s, you can imagine that I had just a few tubular steel items, lots of precious metals (mostly copper-jacketed lead) and several “overly large” magazines (as defined by the wonderful former gauleiter of NJ, one Flim Flam Florio). I have never trusted that kind of property to movers, so I had it all in my car. When we passed the aforementioned sign, I turned to my wife (then of about 18 months, and who knew virtually nothing about firearms or the laws related to them) and casually said, “Hey, now you don’t have to worry about bailing me out of jail anymore.” I got the desired response of wide eyes and some stammering, followed by, “What are you talking about?” So I explained the fascist, unconstitutional ban (of the time) on magazines that could hold more than 15 rounds (now the phuckers moved it down to 10). She asked me how many I had, and my response was, “Well,18 inches behind my ass is about 200 years’ worth in Rahway State Prison.” She turned pale as a ghost, and was silent for almost 30 seconds – nearly a record when she’s conscious :>) – and finally she asked, “they don’t have laws like that in Texas, do they?” “No, babe, Texas is in America.”

  3. There’s one traffic circle just outside two adjoining neighborhoods in Clear Lake, Tx. It works, but only because in the morning 90% of the traffic is all going the same direction and in the evening the reverse. During the rest of the day there’s almost no traffic. It is faster than having the entire flow of traffic stop then turn right at a conventional intersection. But the few times there’s any traffic not part of the normal 90% it screws things up. I’d hate to see it anywhere else.

  4. Here in Aridzona, traffic circles are called “traffic calming devices.” Mostly, they are installed because someone thought they “looked pretty” or made us like them Big Eastern cities.

    Anyone having to deal with them on a regular basis knows the following: they (and speed bumps” don’t work. Nothing is “calmed,” and if you practice a little, you can learn that there is a speed where speed bumps are barely noticeable, and if you choose the right line, you can traverse a traffic circle without slowing down or turning to fit the circle.

    Or, on a Friday or Saturday night, you can find a comfortable seat on the sidelines and watch the drunks try to make it through the circle.

  5. Locally one jurisdiction decided the correct way to handle an intersection that currently has 4 way stop signs but has become more heavily traveled in recent years due to suburban sprawl is to put in a traffic circle rather than putting in stop lights.

    Given the neighborhood (Martin Sheen once owned a house near the intersection), it’s apparent that the Cult of the Euro holds sway and they brought in a Metrosexual “Urban Designer” rather than a plebeian mere Traffic Engineer.

    The worst part of this travesty is that it will screw up the fastest route to one of my favorite BBQ joints.

  6. Traffic circles? How is one supposed to navigate these things while concentrating on the infotainment system or the four layer deep climate control input screens? Priorities.

  7. Here in Taxachusettes we have more than our fair share of Circles . They work better if they have a large diameter ( 1/4 mile or more ). and then we have an even worse variation. in a number of places particularly in downtown Boston, there are places where 6 or more streets all converge. The traffic engineers long ago abandoned all hope, Paved it all over, drew some random lines and just let the drivers fight it out amongst themselves.

    It’s all child’s play compared to what I saw in India. There right of way is still determined by size ( Buses over cars – cars over camels – Oxcarts over people but lose cows over everything.

  8. I’ll be the odd man out – I LIKE roundabouts. When properly used. I’ll admit there is a limit to how much traffic they can cope with. But they are just the thing for intersections of country roads.

  9. Traffic circles only work when the traffic is light. Otherwise, no one can easily get into the circle because the traffic already in the circle is too heavy. This assumes of course, a normal circle where entering traffic must yield. It seems to me that reversing that would snarl the intersection permanently. It also seems to me that there are very few traffic circles that actually work better than a conventional intersection.

    There is a traffic circle near me that is split. That is, half of the entries into the circle must yield to the traffic already in the circle and the other half, the traffic inside the circle must yield to traffic entering. It seems to work, but here’s why.

    First, the circle is very large. It surrounds the county courthouse right in the center of town. Second, of the four entries, two are directly opposite each other and are for a main thoroughfare. These are the entries that do not have to yield to the traffic inside the circle. The other two entries are for a lesser highway and a side street. Those two have to yield to the circle. Like I say, it’s weird but it seems to work. I’ve never been delayed there unless something stupid has happened, like a wreck or some such.

    Speed bumps, in my opinion, are a mixed bag. I can see their usefulness in certain limited situations such as in a residential area where children are around and auto traffic needs to slow the hell down. For example:

    This year, I was the designated candy guy at my mom’s house on Halloween. She lives on a street that is straight as an arrow for about a 1/4 mile and is a main thoroughfare through her subdivision. The speed limit is 25mph. Even with all of those kids out and about, we would get the occasional a$$hole who would blow down her street at 35 to 40 mph. I yelled at a few of them to slow down, but what I really wanted to do was pull out my carry piece and shoot a couple of them. Yeah, rest assured that sanity prevailed in my case, but I believe that four or five speed bumps on her street would be a good thing.

    Now, as far as that “traffic calming” stupidity. That is a tool of liberal leftist a$$holes that *hate* private automobiles and would like very much to get all of us out of our cars and either on bicycles or into buses. “Traffic Calming” is just another way of saying “inconvenience as many drivers as possible.”

    1. A gallon of gas, poured in a ragged line across the street about fifty feet up the road on either side of your grandmother’s house, about the end of September will work wonders on the road for the speeders. Call it Guerrilla traffic engineering. Considering Traffic Engineers hate moving cars even more than beavers hate running water, the idea may spread. If that’s too cheap for the government to consider, then they may decide that speed bumps should be installed at those places, with government construction being what it is, the traffic calming devices should be finished in 2024, around the time Trump’s successor is sworn in as President.

  10. I grew up and started driving in New Jersey (thankfully, I escaped to Texas about 19 years ago – that’s another story).

    One of the things that perplexed me the most when I started driving was the traffic circles…until I figured out how to best navigate them. I always had trouble entering the circle near my home in Freehold (next to the horse track there), until the cosmic lightbulb went off: “Hey, moron, you’re driving around in a 7-year-old POS Chevy wagon that weighs about 5,000 pounds – getting into traffic is EASY!” I just waited until the newest looking Mercedes, Cadillac, or other expensive vehicle was approaching, and cut right in front of them – and no one ever hit me. They did, however, quite often congratulate me for my driving prowess by waving to me with their spare finger :>) and a “courteous” (if not a bit long) honk of their horn.

  11. One traffic term that defines NJ stupidity.. “jughandle turns”. Nuff said!

    Oh, and higher gas prices cause by law someone has to work the gas pump for you, but I think that’s a union thing..

  12. There are a few in Syracuse and they are good for a few collisions and traffic jams as soon as it snows heavily. Which, in Syracuse, is not uncommon.

  13. I really don’t understand the American aversion to roundabouts. They work and they work well. And those magic roundabouts? Roundabouts of roundabouts? They look dreadfully complex but they’re not actually: you just have to think.

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