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There are rules for driving in circles

December 18, 2009

By Steve Wallace, Victoria Times Colonist December 18, 2009

Traffic circles offer all sorts of benefits, but there are some basic rules drivers should know about. Here’s a primer:

The flow of traffic is always counter-clockwise in Canadian traffic circles and roundabouts.  Right of way at traffic circles is the same as at a four-way stop intersection, except there is no
legal obligation to stop. Traffic should flow through the circle and drivers should, theoretically,  not have to stop for vehicles.

Speed in the smaller neighbourhood circles is low, perhaps as low as 20 km/hr depending on the size and configuration. Always signal your intention to turn right and left at these types of traffic circles.

There is no requirement to signal if the driver wishes to proceed straight through the circle, but at larger circle configurations it is a good idea. In many provinces and states, the only signal you need is the right signal. The left signal is discouraged but in B.C. it is recommended at leftturn small circles. Always yield to the drivers in the circle. Remember that there is a chance that drivers will want to return the way they came and this move effectively legalizes a U-turn at these locations. These drivers should not signal right until it is time to leave the circle. Smaller circles will have yield signs at all the entrances.

Pedestrian crosswalks are located well in advance of the intersection circles. This is because drivers are better at handling hazards one at a time. Always make eye contact with pedestrians and other drivers at intersections. This will give you a better idea of what the other driver is about to do.

Cyclists do well at small circles where they can match the speed of vehicles. The big problems for cyclists happen at multi-lane roundabouts, because drivers must check the right-side blind spot before exiting the circle in order to ensure the safety of two-wheel peddlers’.Roundabouts are usually larger multi-lane locations with higher speed limits. Where more than
one lane exists, it is important to watch for pavement or overhead directional markings. It is possible in a two-lane roundabout to go straight through from the inside left lane if the road
markings allow it. The right lane should be reserved for right turns or straight through at a twolane system. The left lane is best used for left turns or U-turns but it is legal to leave the circle from the inside lane of a two roundabout in parallel tandem with outside lane if the signs permit.

We do not have many European-style super multiple circles in Canada. If you are driving in Europe, the vehicle closest to the centre will be given the way clear to leave the circle any time a signal is used to identify the driver’s intention.

We can learn from the British when it comes to the construction of roundabouts. Raised curbs at circles are a no-no. They restrict escape routes. We have all sorts of space in Canada and we should be using all the space available when we build roundabouts.Many people in Victoria remember the traffic circle at Hillside and Douglas and how well it worked. You have to wonder why it was replaced with the five-headed monster. Roundabouts should be built to allow for a smooth meshing of cyclists with cars and trucks. They do it all over the world. Surely we should be able to figure it out here.

Circles reduce idling and are green energy savers. Less pollution results when bicycles and electric units are accommodated. Traffic circles do not require electric power and save energy
as well. Circles are quieter than standard intersections, since there is seldom a stop-andaccelerate action. Educating drivers, pedestrians and cyclists is the key to safe traffic circle functioning.
Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Interior of B.C.

stevewallace@shaw.ca
© Copyright (c) Victoria Times Colonist

 

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