Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Magic" Roundabouts




We decided to journey to Swindon this past weekend to visit the Outlet mall there. The mall was great (finally I find a good place to shop in England and it's almost time to leave!) The journey to the mall was... well... an experience.
Swindon is one big traffic experiment. Someone with very little wisdom and, most assuredly, an endless supply of hallucinogenic drugs decided to invent the "magic" roundabout. A magic roundabout consists of four (or more) small roundabouts placed equal-distance around one big roundabout. The system is complicated by the fact that you can travel two different directions - clockwise or anti-clockwise - approaching it you can turn either left or right onto the roundabout and proceed around it in whichever direction provides the shortest route to your exit. The result, for the uninitiated that is, is absolute mad panic! Cars to the left. Cars to the right. Cyclists everywhere. The temptation is to just close one eyes, put pedal to the metal and pray.
Inexperienced panic aside, they claim it works quite efficiently. However, I still think the only "magic" about it is the fact that people aren't killed on a daily basis! And I did find a list claiming it as number 3 on the top-10 list of England's scariest junctions.
I have actually become quite fond of roundabouts in my time here. In most situations they work exceptionally well - no more waiting at red lights when there are no other cars in sight. And of course, the bean-counters like them because they cost next-to-nothing to maintain. In higher-volume traffic their efficiency reduces dramatically - but intersections and traffic lights don't work so well in that case either. I will miss the roundabouts - but definately not the magic ones!

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