Although circular junctions were around a lot earlier, what we recognise as modern roundabouts began appearing in the first few years of the twentieth century.
The French are usually credited with the invention, however Columbus Circle in Manhattan pre-dates the Place De l’Étoile around the Arc De Triomphe by three years.
While the British had to wait another two years for the somewhat less ostentatious one in Letchworth Garden City.
After which Europe – led by France – started planting them everywhere, with Britain joining in with gusto in the Sixties, leaving The States to reluctantly succumb in the Nineties.
And so inevitably they can now be found right across The Rest Of The World. This writer has even seen one in Phnom Penh.
But when it comes to the business of NEGOTIATING these vehicular carousels, countries vary wildly.
Typically, Britain has a whole bunch of rules and regs regarding them. So do the French – although again typically, they totally ignore them.
And the Cambodians treat them like a circular road interspersed with a series of small junctions – meaning they are as utterly #@&%ed up as all their other junctions.
However, this piece is actually about the TECHNIQUES required to DEAL with roundabouts; your humble scribe only included their history because he felt like it.
Fact is, these days there are more of them in Britain and France than any other country in the World, so for Brits and Frogs, an appreciation of how to get through them quickly can save both peoples a significant part of their life-spans.
The downside of roundabouts is that although they SAVE time when the traffic keeps MOVING – they COST time when it STOPS on the approaches.
And this is inevitable when the circular road is NARROW. The roundabouts of old were mostly HUGE, allowing traffic to BLEND in and out – however places like Letchworth Garden City are less grandiose.
Plus the approaches now have LANES; one for traffic turning left, one for right and sometimes one for straight across.
Which is where a cute PLOY can come in. Say there is a massive queue in the lane for those turning left. Most people will join it – while bullies will try to cut into it at the front. And today, YOU need to turn left.
What you do is join the queue for those turning right – and TURN right.
Then just keep ON turning – through 450 degrees (one-and-a-quarter revolutions – viva la revoluçion) – until you reach your intended exit.
Simple, legal and non-confrontational. And the extra ten seconds it took you is easily compensated by the TWENTY MINUTES it SAVED you.
Ready for another ploy? Okay, this one uses the most important rule in high-performance driving; Anticipation Of The Situation Ahead – spotting where the GAPS will form and BEING THERE when they do.
Also, AOTSA enables you to spot TROUBLE ahead, ensuring that when a motorway pile-up occurs, YOU are two lanes AWAY from it.
Granted other motorists will create variables – but 90% of the time you will be RIGHT.
So let us say you are coming up to an EMPTY approach – instead of just MORONICALLY drawing up to the GIVE WAY line, then STOPPING to wait for a gap to pull into – ANALYSE the traffic on the roundabout as you NEAR it, then SPOT the gap you will need to pull into, adjust your speed accordingly, signal clearly and dove-tail straight INTO it.
The SECRET with all roundabouts is to KEEP MOVING – STOP and you are SCREWED.
It takes WAY longer to ACCELERATE into a gap from REST than to just SLIDE INTO it – meaning if you DO stop, said gap will need to be MUCH BIGGER.
Remember, fast driving is NOT about being a lead-foot – or an aggressive arsehole – it is entirely about that ANTICIPATION. Most drivers only drive ten feet in front of their bonnets – and five seconds in front of the now.
Which is why THIS motorist invariably exits a roundabout several cars ahead of the position he was in when he entered it – but walk before you can run.