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gene kelly shock

violating some design principle, I'm sure...

Behold the Swindon Magic Roundabout*, in all of its evil-genius-crack-monkey road-design glory:Notice that not only is it a roundabout made up of roundabouts, but there's another roundabout in the middle!

There's another even crazier one in Hemel Hempstead. This one has 6 mini roundabouts in it and two lanes: the inner lane lets you go counter-clockwise, the outer lane lets you go clockwise, and the mini roundabouts let you switch. Oh, and there's a river running through the center that isn't visible from the road, so if you try to cut through, you get stuck. This quote sums it up: "When it opened in June 1973 a police officer had to be stationed at each of the mini roundabouts to prevent chaos."

For another example of crazy road design, closer to home, check out Kelley Square in Worcester, MA. It might look tame at first glance, but notice the sheer number of roads feeding into it, the utter lack of traffic lights, and the archipelago of islands in the midst of a long bed of asphalt. I especially like the bit at the top, with five roads feeding into a great open asphalted area. Great for playing multiple games of chicken.

Of somewhat lesser horror (but definite anxiety to newcomers) is the cause of much traffic build-up near where I work: Oak Street Intersection, Natick, MA. It's a sad attempt at a roundabout dropped right on top of a four-lane highway. There's some classic behavior at rush hour where those little outer parts of the arcs fill up to about 4 cars each and the whole thing jams, because of course it's nearly a deadlock situation when you can only fit 4 cars into the only lane for going in any direction but straight.

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* It should be noted that in the 25 years that the Magic Roundabout has existed, there have been less than 15 major accidents and less than 60 minor accidents. Though I think that's less a testimony to a good design and more a testimony to the ingenious adaptive abilities of the Swindon residents.

Comments

(Anonymous)

Even Simple Roundabouts Stump Me

When E and I were on honeymoon we rented a car while we were on Lewis. The only way I could ever seem to get a roundabout right was to follow somebody else through it. One day when we arrived at at one outside of Stornoway there were no other drivers, and I was completely lost... Fortunately, unlike MA rotaries which have curbs in the middle, English roundabouts often are delineated by no more than a dot painted in the middle of the intersection -- so I drove straight through it.

Re: Even Simple Roundabouts Stump Me

See, I'm not the only one! I looked at that Swindon nonsense and said, "Well, what on earth is to stop me driving straight over it??" Here, of course, there would be curbs, guardrails and signage (usually).

And reveilles, your Oak Street "circle" is the spitting image of Route 1 and Grandview Avenue in Menlo Park, NJ, near where jcobleigh and I grew up. It's actually not that confusing and, for whatever reason, the backups never come back out onto the main road.

New Jersey is -- or was, the NJDOT have been busy -- the capital of traffic circles. I grew up navigating them, as did jcobleigh, and you learned to Hail Mary your way through them without even setting foot near your brake pedal.

Then I got here, where the very few traffic circles are actually called roundabouts, where you actually have to give way to the people IN them, and they all have STOP SIGNS and people actually STOP. They're usually put in as traffic-calming measures. I can't tell you how many near-misses I had at first.

office politics

Didn't David Brent's replacement come from Swindon?

Re: office politics

I haven't seen that show, but the crazy characters (i.e., all of them) in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels are from Swindon. jcobleigh saw that and said, "Oh, that explains a lot."