Michigan wants drivers to learn to love roundabouts. It’s been a slow go.

Lustig

West Bloomfield Township police officer Scott Lustig leads a class in how to navigate roundabouts this month in the Oakland County suburb. (Bridge photo by Joel Kurth)

WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP—For a good hour, West Bloomfield police officer Robert Houchins recited the stats: Roundabouts are safer. They improve traffic flow and reduce serious crashes.

They’re not dangerous at all, Houchins stressed. You should love them. Really.

And for a good hour, his audience of senior citizens was dubious. What about fast drivers, they asked. What if my car is sideswiped? Should I stop? My GPS told me to turn, but I was driving in a circle!

“Trust the roundabout! You need to trust the roundabout,” implored Scott Lustig, another police officer who was assisting with the class, Navigating Roundabouts.

“If everyone were to follow the signs and flow of the road, it will never lead you astray and there won’t be accidents.”

So it goes in West Bloomfield, where traffic is bumper to bumper and crashes have increased at intersections with roundabouts. They’re so divisive police have launched classes in how to drive through them.

Common in Europe, roundabouts are slowly becoming more common in Michigan. For years a mostly Oakland County phenomenon, they now spread from Grand Rapids to Wexford County with another 25 planned to open by 2025.

West Bloomfield, a Detroit suburb, opened its fifth roundabout in December, in a state with about 160 total. Beloved by traffic planners, police and engineers, roundabouts are designed to keep cars moving and reduce the risk of serious crashes by slowing speeds and eliminating sharp turns that cause head-on collisions in traditional intersections.

But safety fears remain and change comes hard, especially in the suburbs of the Motor City, which lays claim to inventing the first three-color traffic signal in 1920

Motorists complain roundabouts cause too many white-knuckle moments, requiring them to yield and merge into oncoming traffic that is rapidly entering and exiting the circle. 

Gerri Morris’ solution: Drive several miles out of the way to avoid them.

“They just make me uncomfortable,” said Morris, who moved to West Bloomfield last year from Florida. “There’s too many people like me who don’t know what they’re doing.”

She attended the police’s inaugural class this month – another is scheduled for March – and raised her hand when Houchins began the hour by asking how many have anxieties about roundabouts.

Houchins said he launched the class because of confusion and fear about the intersections. West Bloomfield is home to some of the state’s oldest residents (nearly 1 in 3 are 60 or older) and roundabouts with the most crashes (three of the top 10 statewide, including the top spot on Orchard Lake Road and 14 Mile on the border with Farmington Hills.)

“Knock on wood, none of them have been fatal,” Houchins told the class. “Don’t believe the hype. There’s a stigma that roundabouts are more dangerous. It’s just not true.”

‘They have their critics’

Indeed, safety is the biggest benefit of roundabouts, argued Craig Bryson, spokesman of the Road Commission for Oakland County. The agency built the county’s first in 1999 and now has constructed 28.

“We think they’re great. We’re absolutely evangelists on roundabouts. As a matter of practice, every time we work on an intersection, we ask, ‘Would this be a good location for a roundabout?’” Bryson said.

“Of course, they have their critics, and my brother is one of the biggest.”

Nationwide, studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Federal Highway Administration show that crashes fell 37 percent at roundabout intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used to control traffic.

Crashes involving injuries fell 75 percent, the studies found. That’s because circles require drivers to slow down to 15 mph or so and drastically reduce what traffic engineers call “conflict points,” the sudden turns and angles involved in head-on or T-bone collisions.

Data from Michigan and Oakland County, though, indicate that crashes actually increase at some roundabouts. 

At West Maple and Farmington roads in West Bloomfield, for instance, crashes jumped to an average of 67 per year from 40 after a roundabout was installed in 2008. The percentage of those crashes with injuries, though, fell to 8 percent from 22 percent. 

A few miles away in Commerce Township, county roads officials had to install fencing to slow down drivers approaching a roundabout at M-5 and Pontiac Trail Road at 60 mph.

“Most [crashes] are fender benders. It’s still not something we’re happy about,” Bryson said. “But if virtually eliminating fatalities comes at a cost of slightly increased fender benders, we’ll take that tradeoff any day of the week.”

Jeff Cranson, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said Michigan rolled out its first roundabout in 2005 and now has 47 on state roads. Most of those have been in the last 10 years and clustered near cities such as Lansing and southeast Michigan but they’ve been added as well in northern cities including Ishpeming and Marquette. 

State research has concluded that while crashes increase “the reduction in injury crashes” is a “net benefit.”

Cranson said “preventing injuries and saving lives should be the top priority” and noted that injury crashes have fallen 20 percent to 50 percent at roundabouts on state roads converted from traffic signals, and 35 to 45 percent at those that were stop signs.

Injuries may decline, but it’s a “myth to say they’re completely safe,” said Brandon Hewitt, an attorney with the Michigan Auto Law firm in Farmington Hills. He noted that five roundabouts in southeast Michigan had 55 injuries in 2018.

“There are big-time tradeoffs: More fender-benders, minor-type, low-speed crashes, but if the idea is to save lives and serious injuries there’s not a whole lot of argument against them,” Hewitt said.

“But I don’t think they can be sold as a cost-saving measure. It may be a fender-bender, but that fender can have four cameras inside it that will cost $5,000 to fix.”

A 2018 report from AAA found that 1 in 3 Americans can’t afford an unexpected repair bill of $500 while new safety features such as blind spot monitoring and automatic braking are ballooning bills to fix even slight collisions to $5,300 or more. 

‘Single most important’ innovation?

Boosters such as Bryson also say replacing traffic lights with roundabouts reduces traffic jams and saves energy.

In one study in Kansas, traffic delays fell 65 percent, while Michigan transportation officials estimate savings of $2,000 to $5,000 in energy costs per intersection from not having to power lights. (Costs to build roundabouts vary widely because the biggest expense is land acquisition; the most recent one in West Bloomfield at Maple and Middlebelt cost $6.6 million).

A 2011 research paper from state engineers concluded that roundabouts, on average, decreased traffic jams and increased worker productivity so much they added $500,000 per year to the economy.

“The roundabout is the single most important device ever created to help control traffic safely and smoothly,” according to a blog dedicated to roundabouts, attributing the quote to the now-defunct Discover Magazine.

Most roundabout crashes

Each year, the Michigan Auto Law firm in Farmington Hills uses Michigan State Police crash records to compile a list of the roundabouts with the most crashes. Here is the list for 2018. Data for 2019 aren’t yet available.

  • Orchard Lake at 14 Mile, Farmington Hills/West Bloomfield: 144 crashes, 20 injuries
  • 18 ½ Mile at Van Dyke, Sterling Heights: 141 crashes, 12 injures
  • Martin at Pontiac Trail, Commerce: 123 crashes, 6 injuries
  • State at Ellsworth, Ann Arbor: 123 crashes, 6 injuries
  • Farmington at Maple, West Bloomfield: 77 crashes, 11 injuries
  • Livernois at Hamlin, Rochester Hills: 63 crashes, 3 injuries
  • Interstate 94 at Sprinkle, Comstock: 54 crashes, 0 injuries
  • Oakley Park at Martin, Commerce: 51 crashes, 3 injuries
  • Farmington at 14 Mile, West Bloomfield: 49 crashes, 8 injuries
  • Lee at Whitmore Lake: Green Oak: 49 crashes, 0 injuries

As with many things associated with Europe, Americans can take them or leave them.

While estimates vary, the United States has about 5,000 roundabouts. That’s half as many as the United Kingdom, a nation that has 262,000 miles of roads compared to 4 million miles in the United States.

France alone has 30,000 roundabouts, 1 per every 45 intersections compared to 1 per 1,118 in the United States, according to a 2016 study.

“Every single time we build a roundabout, people come out of the woodwork saying, ‘If you build it, people will die,’” Bryson said. “As soon as you build it and open it, dead silence. It happens every time.”

That’s not to say motorists don’t complain about them.

Last October, Bridge Magazine and its parent nonprofit, The Center for Michigan, hosted a reader event with Oakland County’s top official, David Coulter.

Appointed county executive two months before the event, Coulter inherited a host of issues, from the county’s budget to regional transportation. For much of the hourlong discussion, though, attendees asked about roundabouts, even though Coulter’s office doesn’t control them.

“Everywhere I go, I hear complaints about roundabouts pretty frequently,” Coulter told Bridge last week. “For a lot of people, they’re just still pretty confusing and potentially dangerous.”

He acknowledged that safety studies contradict those fears, but admitted, “I consider myself in the category of someone who doesn’t like to navigate roundabouts.”

It’s a learning process, said Steve Kaplan, supervisor of West Bloomfield, whose elected officials waged a multiyear fight in the 2000s to avoid a roundabout at a busy intersection.

“Once roundabouts are installed, after the inconvenience dissipates, most people say they like them,” said Kaplan, who was elected after the dispute.

“But this is our last roundabout. We’ve run out of space.”

Back in roundabout school, police concluded the class by asking participants to raise their hands if they were now more comfortable with roundabouts. 

After a slight pause, Lustig asked “a little more comfortable?”

All seven participants raised their hands. That’s a start, Houchins said.

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Comments

Richard
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:37am

In Jackson MI the 4 round abouts are single lane. One is actually a rectangular round about. the 3 circular one are of small diameter, such that when entering it with cars already in the round about you are not quite sure whether the cars are going to exit or continue in the round about there fore if you don't hesitate you may well hit the car that doesn't exit. I have seen one accident, witnessed a car going the wrong way and two cases where cheveron signs indicating the direction of traffic wiped out by vehicles hitting them.
In general I think they make sense but they are not a be all and end all.

Scott Batson
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 1:11pm

Modern roundabouts are always roundish.

Many people confuse other and older styles of circular intersections with modern roundabouts. High speed, east coast rotaries, large multi-lane traffic circles (Arc D’Triomphe, Dupont Circle), and small neighborhood traffic circles are not modern roundabouts and UK 'roundabouts' are not the same as US 'roundabouts'. The Brits even call a merry-go-round a kid’s roundabout.
What is, and is not, a modern roundabout:
FHWA: http://www.ltrc.lsu.edu/ltc_09/pdf/Doctor,%20Mark.pdf
UMass video: https://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/new-umass-transportation-center...
WA DOT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsCoI7lERGE
NJ traffic circles: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_traffic_circles_in_New_Jersey
NJ wins award for building roundabout:
https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/national-roadway-safety-award-w...

Mel Zelliker
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:41am

In general I like roundabouts and agree that they are a net benefit for motor vehicle traffic.
However I don't think they accommodate non-motorized vehicle transport very well, in particular bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

Sidewalks are usually offset to provide a narrow place for walkers to cross the road, but I don't think it's easy to integrate a pedestrian crossing signal with a roundabout. If there's no traffic light controlling motor vehicles, it's not obvious when it would be most efficient for pedestrians to cross, and if pedestrians can control the crossing signal, then traffic can back up in the roundabout.

Bicycles being ridden in the street (possibly in a bike lane) are another issue. Despite roundabouts leading to fewer fatalities for motor vehicle operators, it would seem to be a particularly dangerous interaction for bicyclists.

Don
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:43am

The bump shop LOVE these round about!!

Le Roy G. Barnett
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:47am

There are places where traffic circles are appropriate and places where they do not belong. In my opinion, authorities have difficulty making this distinction. Here in Lansing, one "expert" even suggested that a traffic circle be placed along a major thoroughfare so it could form the nucleus of an ill-defined or amorphous community. Sad to say, these are the kinds of people (mindset) who seem to be increasingly in charge these days.

John Q. Public
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 3:19pm

Readers should look at the map embedded in the story and enlarge it to see the city of Lansing. South of I-496 there are a half dozen roundabouts in residential neighborhoods. I'll bet there wasn't a single fatality or serious accident at any one of those intersections in the past 50 years. The one in downtown Lansing has a stop sign at every single entry point to the circle! Your first sentence says it best--in Lansing, they put them in just because public officials like to think they're being cutting-edge by implementing "solutions" where there isn't any problem.

The ones in Meridian Township, on the other hand, are well placed and function efficiently.

Laura
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:58am

Thank you for this informative article. As a driver, I find roundabouts to be intuitive and easy to navigate. As a pedestrian, they are nightmarish, a constant stream of drivers who rarely notice or stop for persons waiting to cross. How can we improve the safety of roundabouts for pedestrians?

jesse atwell
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:05am

White knuckles are the fundamental reason to stop the roundabout madness. Those that tell us they are safer are smoking something funny. Making decisions to merge or change lanes in a roundabout require the skills and reaction times of a fighter pilot. No mention is ever made about running into a roundabout in the middle of the night when it's raining cats and dogs or there is a white out during the winter. The things are just not as straight forward easy as gov't elite are trying to get us to believe. They are just an oil tanker and smart car away from disaster.

It's Okay
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 1:46pm

Honey, you're showing your age. Maybe you should retire from driving and just start ubering. On the bright side, efficient self-driving cars will be here soon enough and traffic will move better, less pedestrians and bikers will be hit.

Robert Honeyman
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 8:26pm

Actually, Level 5 autonomous vehicles (self-driving anywhere under any conditions) will likely never happen. Level 4 will be tough enough, and is likely more than a decade away for non-commercial vehicles.

However, roundabouts are awesome. Many geezers (I am one) are clueless. But I get it. Sort of. My first roundabout was 30 years ago. I rented an automatic at Heathrow. It took around a half dozen long passages under the taxiways before I was able to figure out how to find the exit. Of course, that was my first time driving on the wrong side of the road. But since then, it's a lovefest. Except in Paris, where cars *entering* the roundabout have the right-of-way.

Seems like guaranteed gridlock.

jess atwell
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 12:02pm

Agree with comments about roundabouts in England. Trafalgar Square roundabout with 5 lanes is particularly confusing. Chevy Chase pointed that out very humorously in his movie "European Vacation" . Adding decisions to the driver's decision making load will always result in humorous but possibly dissasterous results.....Roundabouts only add more to the equation.

Carole
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 8:42am

Don't hold your breath waiting for self driving cars. Those who actually work in the auto industry know better.

Sunny
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 11:52am

I already see self driving cars on the road everywhere all the time. I have many friends in the auto industry, specifically in that area. It can't be that far away, but hey we should already be flying like the Jetsons. In the meantime, people in Michigan just need to get used to the roundabouts. They're actually fun!

duane
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 7:44pm

The questioning I have heard about autonomous cars are if the governments can't keep the roads well maintained now, then how will they keep them maintained [including the lines painted] so the computers can see how to drive, which insurers will cover accidents [the ones covering the computer/program makers, the parts manufacturers, the carmakers, the car maintenance shops, the car owner, the road paint manufacturer, etc.], who has access to the computer data base when an accident happens or a ticket is issues, who is held accountable for any incidents that involve the vehicle? The technology maybe here, but the ancillary issues could be what delays actual implementation.

As for the self driving cars, they have been around for decades, I have seen drivers watching a TV mounted on the dash, reading books, reading newspapers [when we they were printed], doing their makeup, while the car is travel doing 70 mph going down the Interstate.

jess atwell
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 11:55am

Well Darling, since we're being catty.....I am a pilot with appropriate reaction times when flying jet aircraft...and still feel that roundabouts are a disaster waiting to happen....they are not standardized in any form or fashion...all are different designs, size, shape, configuration and locations.....all of which cause pause for concern for my wife who was confused by a roundabout while I was a passenger .....she was exiting US 23 ...it had a short distance to reduce speed from about 80mph...to an exit ramp that was very tight....with no warning that a roundabout was coming up...with two lanes of traffic....and no familiarity with the road that she was supposed to be getting off on....she panicked and stopped in the middle of the roundabout....I panicked also and screamed for her to get moving or we would be killed....We've now agreed to disagree about her driving skills.....forever......The point is that
unfamiliarity with any new navigation required will quite possibly result in decisions being made inappropriately....I'm glad that you're such a skilled drive that you never make a bad decision in unusual circumstance while driving....BTW, autonomous vehicles have hit other cars many times during development...they are not perfect ...and probably never will be.....because the idiots that are programming them are human beings ....who make mistakes also.....and Uber accidents are also a reality....so get off your high and mighty, self indulgent butt and think a little bit about the reality of people sharing their thoughts that you might not understand yet.

Dan Moerman
Sun, 01/26/2020 - 9:22am

Well, a year or so ago, I entered a roundabout (by Skyline High in Ann Arbor). The woman in front of me STOPPED. I nearly rear ended her. Why did she stop? Because the idiot in front of her was backing up. He'd apparently missed his exit, and didn't seem to comprehend the concept of a "circle." I'm very careful in roundabouts.

Catty
Sun, 01/26/2020 - 7:30pm

There there, now who's the snowflake? LOL

Scott Batson
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 1:12pm

You don't change lanes in a modern roundabout. You are confusing modern roundabouts with older traffic circles an rotaries.

Steve D
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:25am

Outside Mesick M115 and M37 merge. In the summer the traffic volume is so large at times there are few openings to even enter the circle. I'm sure there are experts that figure a solution out. In my opinion a lot of these circles are too small for the intersection.

abe bubush
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:34am

If you are following too closely or speeding, nothing will help you.

Just get used to keeping a sharper eye out to your left side.

Linda Looney
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:37am

I support the current law. I pay school taxes for public schools for everyone. If you opt to send your chil(ten) to private schools, that’s on you! We sent our youngest son to a Catholic school because the public school wasn’t attending to his needs. However...I never complained about paying my taxes at the same time I was paying tuition. That was our choice. Our other 4 children all attended public schools and graduated. In fact, our son who attended St. Stephans school went on to a public high school in 9th grade and did very well.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:40am

Roundabouts are an absolutely horrible idea which should NEVER have been implemented here in Michigan in the first place.

In an era of tight road budgets, tearing up perfectly good intersections, instead of fixing roads [which is clearly a more pressing issue] makes no financial sense.

Bones
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 1:24pm

An absolutely horrible idea except for where they demonstrably traffic flow. Should they be everywhere? No, of course not. Are you railing against an insignificant development because you're a petulant child? Yes, of course you are.

Loon
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 10:38am

HaHa! They are great! People all over the world have figured out how to use them. Are Michiganders dumb or what??

LOL
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 11:45am

Yes, some are also not good drivers.

A Hope
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 9:56am

The panic over roundabouts strikes me as hilarious. Yes, the very first time through one is different and requires your attention. After that, you just go with the flow. Exit when you need to and —-here’s another great thing about roundabouts—-if you miss your turn, just go on around until you see it again; it’s much easier than when you miss a turn at a corner with a stop light. And swooping around a roundabout is much faster than sitting forever at a light, (especially when it’s a light with nobody but you there). Relax, everyone. It’ll be OK.

Arjay
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:05am

Roundabouts ARE dangerous --- when they are not designed properly, such as too small or too close together. I learned to drive in Massachusetts in the 1960's. They had and still have what we called a Rotary. It was at least 500 ' diameter so there was ample room in the rotary for people to enter, merge, and exit. But the design of roundabouts in Michigan is terrible. They are too small, so people are afraid to enter. Then the person behind them is in a hurry so passes and enters no matter what. If the traffic is heavy in one direction, like during rush hour, there is no room for anyone else to enter the roundabout. The design of the roundabouts on US-23 at Geddes, and further north at Lee Road has two roundabouts in series, almost like the old figure 8 dodge-em races. No room at all to get into some lanes. The Northville Public Works person wanted a roundabout on Taft Road that has an inner diameter of 30' which makes it totally ineffective. The only saving grace is that there are few cars on this road most of the time. A traffic calming device would have been much more effective.

Roundabouts should be designed as the road is being laid out, not as an afterthought after the road is already established. And there is a limit in the number of cars per hour that a roundabout can handle. That number is much lower than some believe, but it depends on the design which today is poorly lacking.

Brett McRae
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:14am

I think roundabouts are great! Traveling in France and Ireland I found roundabouts used outside of cities just about everywhere. Once you get the hang of them, they are quick and easy (even driving on the left side). I think the novelty of them puts people off. If there were more of them in Michigan, people would get more experience handling them.

Matt
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:23am

I've driven them all over Europe and like them. But given the very poor driving habits so prevalent in the US and especially in Michigan, (talking on cell phones and/ while constantly putting along in the left lane, for starts - which you rarely see over there!) you have to have your doubts.

Kathi Geukes
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:46am

I'll change my route before I take a round about....I think they are the dumbest damn things they could have come up with...but now they are making it almost impossible to avoid them!! Since when do they have the right to tell us how to drive? And what to add to our roads? Was there any debate about these idiotic things? I never heard a word if there was!! NO to roundabouts!!!!!

duane
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:46am

As long as the 'experts' have their numbers drivers and pedestrians be damned. The 'experts' show no concern for the tension of drivers [and it only takes one driver to disrupt flow on a 'circle'], or the tension for pedestrians [I notice there are no comments about pedestrians, we have a retro-fit 'circle' in our downtown, it's now look left, right, and all around the circle because there is no way for the walker (with stroller) to interrupt traffic and safely cross the road ].
There are places for 'roundabouts' but they are not the panacea this article seems to be pushing [no acknowledge of weaknesses by the police and other proponents].

When a proponent invokes the age-old appeal to the 'goddess' of luck ['knock on wood'] to support their view on roundabouts, that lends a bit of reality to the topic.
I learned to be safe when driving give up a bit time to be safe, when turning left into track, on merge ramps, at an intersections, and even on roundabouts.

water2Wine
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 11:25am

The insurance companies and body shop are having a boom! They save the city money from not having to put up lights. Most people hate them. Just like in Europe, we become the country of loud horns and screaming, swearing people. They will never change it now, they are making and saving too much money. We, of course, are the ones to pay, as usual.

Lorraine
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 11:45am

So the people who were killed in a single car accident in the roundabout at Orchard Lake and 14 mile do not count in the statistics? The county argues that the roundabouts lower fatalities, but in at least two of those West Bloomfield intersections, there hadn't been a fatality for over twenty years. I've had semis and a Smart bus pull out right in front of me. Heaven forbid they should yield to a car.

Heart Eyes
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 1:14pm

I LOVE roundabouts, but hate the way people here use them. It's simple, YOU SLOW DOWN, BUT YOU DON'T STOP! Otherwise it defeats the purpose. I wish all streetlights and stop signs were replaced by roundabouts!!! We waste so much time and gas stopping for lights/stop signs, ESPECIALLY when there is no traffic coming from the other directions.

LH
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 4:05pm

Amen! I can't count the number of times I have almost rear-ended someone because just as they got to the roundabout they panicked and stopped with their front bumper in the roundabout, quivering with anxiety. I have, however, seen some poorly designed roundabouts, especially the sequences of three multi-lane ones where you often need to be in the inside lane for the first one but then change lanes to get out of the second or third one. And the first time I tried to navigate one in a country where they drive on the left side of the road would have been a great comedy sketch! Fortunately there is no video evidence. Overall, though, I love them. And I must admit to being in the "older" demographic.

TJ
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 2:42pm

No mention of PEDESTRIANS!!!
I work near one and every day when I walk I fear for my life. Plus, when there's a low use roundabout, lazy people go the wrong way to avoid going around. Terrifying.

John Q. Public
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 3:05pm

The roundabout controversy is no different than any other traffic controversy: designs that don't match the desire of the driving public. The traffic engineers and planning directors all want to make traffic slow down for no reason other than they want you to slow down (or worse, to make the efficient movement of 40,000 vehicles yield to the desires of seventeen bicyclists and five pedestrians), and the driving public wants traffic patterns that flow smoothly.

One better traffic design is one that mandates three-way (green/yellow/red) traffic lights be turned to flashing traffic lights during hours when traffic flow is light. Small cities (e.g., Monroe, Jackson, Battle Creek, Cadillac, Lansing, Kalamazoo) are notorious for making you sit and wait from 30-60 seconds at lights when there is no traffic present in any other direction. They design the light cycles for peak traffic occurring from 2-5 hours per day and they operate on those cycles 24/7.

Jeff Wescott
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 4:38pm

I moved here 22 years ago from Boston, MA, a state that boasts the highest number of rotaries (that's what roundabouts are called in New England) at well over one hundred. One reason there are so many rotaries in the Bay State is the need to keep the population down. For teenage boys, it was a death-defying rite of passage to hit a rotary, bob and weave your way through, and live to tell about it, all the time looking very cool, of course. Times change, though, and my former home state is slowly transforming all those rotaries into the kinds of "roundabouts" being discussed in this article. What's the difference, you ask? Better structure, guidance, and safety. According to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the conversion of intersections into roundabouts resulted in a 90 percent decrease in collision-related fatalities and 39 percent decrease in crashes overall. The conversion of rotaries into roundabouts promises to save even more. Because of this, the Bay State may soon be so overcrowded no one will live there. In short, have courage, Michiganders, the best is yet to come...round.

Russell Lauer
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 6:21pm

Round a bouts were an issue here in Kalamazoo, when installation was advised.
Once built, controversy went away. Just like driving though, PAY ATTENTION!

J Hendricks
Thu, 01/23/2020 - 7:31pm

One of the great advantages of roundabouts is the fact that you can pair two of them - say a half mile or quarter mile apart, eliminate the center left turn lane (plant grass or something) and then all access on to or off the road is a right hand turn. Think of your busiest commercial strip where you are trying to make s a left turn coming out of a parking lot onto the road. With the paired roundabouts you just take a right out of the lot, go to the roundabout, swing around and head in the direction you wanted to go. No more white knuckles leaving a store in heavy traffic trying to take a left. No more t-bone accidents.

Carole
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 8:39am

Roundabouts are used safely in Minnesota but they only use them in lower traffic areas. I don't believe they work well in high traffic areas. I also believe that many of the traffic accidents in areas with traffic lights are caused by inconsistency. As an example, if one is heading west a traffic light is set so that all cars heading west or turning left to go south are green at the same time. At other lights, only those heading west turn green and those making a left to go south must wait. However, those who don't pay close attention (and there are lots of them) notice the traffic moving next to them to go west and they start their left turn without looking and get in an accident with a vehicle that is going east because the traffic signals are not consistent in all areas.

Gramma
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 10:38am

Hate them!

Betsy
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 11:59am

Boomer here, age 58, I LOVE THEM! Pay attention, but keep moving, keep an eye to the left because you need to merge in. The biggest problem are the those who panic. I have nearly rear-ended some who are doing fine, but then just come to a dead stop as they are going around. For no reason. Once you are in the circle keep moving, you have the right of way. I just scream inside my car. The 2nd less problem are those who don't pay attention to the yield sign.

middle of the mit
Fri, 01/24/2020 - 8:39pm

Having only used these a few times since there aren't any where I live, I did use a few when I lived in the Detroit area. They were all in neighborhoods though.

Then I took a trip to Mt Pleasant and stopped at Clare a year or so ago and ran into one in both areas. Both were at either the end of the exit or beginning of the entrance ramps of the Highway. It is confusing at first. And I don't really think putting them at the highway exit and entrance ramps is a good idea. That makes it so that the traffic doesn't merge into the main road as smooth or onto the highway. It's like putting the entrance ramp in front of the exit ramp on a highway. I see it all the time, but who thought of doing that? And why? It works up here if there aren't a lot of cars, but on Holiday weekends it can be frustrating when you can't get off the highway because people are getting on in front of you and you only have 500 ft between the two

I can see some ways why these are good ideas in low to medium traffic areas. Some commenters said that people who complain about them are unable to drive or should hang up their keys because they are unfamiliar with roundabouts. To that I say, have you ever been at a four way stop sign and you are waiting because no one remembers who has the right of way when you get there at the same time? They have been teaching that for longer than I have been alive and people still don't remember that the car to the right has the right of way.

I don't think they are a bad idea, I just think that it will take time to adjust to them.

Also there should be a sidewalk around the roundabout or maybe a bridge or tunnel for pedestrians. Maybe a detour away from the roundabout? I can definitely see where the other commenters are coming from on that subject.

Mary Scott
Sun, 01/26/2020 - 7:46pm

I grew up with roundabouts (called rotaries in New England) and I think they're great!
Seriously, It's not rocket science and it saves time, gas and it's safer than an intersection.