It’s funny (and scary) to think that some drivers don’t know what to do when they approach a roundabout. Some drivers feel as if they have the right-of-way when entering a roundabout, which is not the case. Once a driver is on the roundabout, he or she has the right to exit (if the drive is in the appropriate lane), while those coming into the circle must yield. But as we are all painfully aware, not all drivers understand the rules of the road.
Take, for example, Gates Circle. How many near accidents have we witnessed, as cars heading north on Delaware Avenue enter the roundabout, before exiting at Chapin Parkway? It’s always a nail biter to see if the drivers heading southbound on Delaware will yield to those exiting the circle. Then there’s the Olmsted circle itself, which has been at the mercy of motorists for decades. To this day it is still in a state of disrepair thanks to some drivers who apparently didn’t even realize that it was there.
In Western New York, there are 21 roundabouts on state roads, including the newest ones located on Porter Avenue at Interstate 190 in the city of Buffalo, and on South Park at Sowles Road in the town of Hamburg in Erie County.
In order to make sure that WNYers are aware of the road rules pertaining to roundabouts, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has come up with some handy guidance referral points for drivers. NYSDOT acting Commissioner, Paul A. Karas, acknowledged the need for the reminders, since roundabouts are becoming more common around town.
Crashes in roundabouts are less severe, resulting in fewer injuries and fatalities. They help traffic move more smoothly, reducing congestion, and improving air quality. Roundabouts eliminate the need for electricity-powered traffic signals, provide a more walkable community, and an aesthetically pleasing landscape.
“Communities across New York State have benefited from the construction of roundabouts, which improve intersection safety and reduce vehicle emissions including carbon dioxide,” said Karas, who pointed out that the circles are safer, more sustainable and more efficient than traditional intersections. “As with all our transportation improvement projects, roundabouts support Governor Cuomo’s effort to boost local economies by providing quick, convenient access to area businesses.”
As an aside, it’s too bad that a roundabout was not placed at the heart of the Genesee Gateway Streetscape Project (intersection of Chippewa, Ellicott, and Genesee Streets), but that is another story for another day. Today, we’re discussing the successes of the circular intersections, not the missed opportunities.
The NYSDOT reminds us of the roundabout rules:
- Watch traffic signs and pavement markings to determine the correct lane to be in before entering the roundabout. Once inside the roundabout do not change lanes.
- Use the left lane to make left turns and use the right lane to make right turns. Follow signs and markings to determine which lane(s) go straight.
- Traffic in the roundabout has the right-of-way.
- Vehicles wishing to enter should yield at the yield line and look for oncoming traffic on their left.
- Enter the roundabout when there is an adequate gap in the circulating traffic flow.
- Always yield to pedestrians* and keep crosswalks clear.
- Cars and trucks should yield to bicycle traffic* and not pass them
- As you approach your exit, turn on your right turn signal.
*Bicyclists are permitted to ride within the roundabout and should follow the flow of traffic, riding in the middle of the lane to prevent being passed or cut off. Hand turning signals should be used. If bicyclists choose not to ride in the roundabout, they should dismount prior to the intersection and proceed as a pedestrian walking their bicycle, on the sidewalk if present.
*Crosswalks for pedestrians are generally just outside of the main flow of the roundabout’s traffic. Walkers, runners, and dismounted bikers should always to look before crossing and only cross one direction of traffic at a time. Never cross to the center island.
NYSDOT provides additional information online regarding roundabouts, as well as downloadable brochures, at dot.ny.gov/main/roundabouts.