You got me going in circles

Where’s the 2013 “Best Roundabout in the World?”

That would be in New York City – Columbus Circle, designed by American architect William Phelps Eno and built in 1905. The roundabout, claims Britain’s Transport Research Laboratory, ensures a safer, smoother flow of traffic than intersections. Awarded by the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society, the award is an attempt to inform Americans on the benefits of this traffic management system.

Traffic circles, rotaries, roundabouts, traffic flow, transportation patterns, what’s happening in new york, humor, Columbus Circle

According to NPR’s Marketplace, “the roundabout…flourished in Britain because it requires the British virtues of compromise and cooperation. The US’s more aggressive, confrontational culture may explain why the roundabout has not been more widely adopted by Americans.”


The USDOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) claims that modern roundabouts are far safer, concurring with the Brits’ findings. [Growing up, I called them traffic circles, friends called them rotaries, but apparently modern roundabouts are different than those death traps.]

The modern roundabout was developed in the United Kingdom during the 1960s and is designed to slow the speed of vehicles entering them, thus resulting in greater traffic safety.

Do drivers think that?

Since most Americans don’t know the difference between circles, rotaries or roundabouts, the perception is somewhat negative. I think – high accident rates and congestion problems. And so does this gentlemen near Denver, CO, some commenters near Baltimore, MD, and some of these commenters near Philadelphia, PA.

So maybe the traffic gang in the UK was right to honor an American roundabout. It sounds as though our ignorance will be eased from the award. After all, as a non-driver, I’m more informed. Though perhaps, still a bit skeptical.

Listen to the full story at NPR’s Marketplace.

Image: Landscape Urbanism by Peter Mauss

One Response to “You got me going in circles”

  1. Laura G Says:

    Columbus Circle is very beautiful, but functional in the present-day USA? I’m not so sure. I still shiver when I think of driving the NJ “circles” many, many years ago. Parts of the current problem with these traffic configurations? They are many but mostly include increased traffic volume, very little courtesy and speed.

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