Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Right, Left, Right, but Circularly

I’m not a big fan of roundabouts. They are a lot like the metric system. Both, when studied objectively, are a much better ways to do things, but I still don’t like them..

The metric system makes complete logical sense. Everything is based on factors of ten. Take the millimeter, keep multiplying by ten and eventually you end up with the kilometer. Multiply the kilometer by five and you have the most grueling thirty-five to forty-five minutes of my year every April at the Run Rocklin.

Whereas with our imperial system, there is no length unit smaller than an inch, there are twelve of those in a foot, three feet (foots) in a yard, and 1,760 yards in a mile. Great. We also have ounces that can be volume or weight, and neither has anything to do with the other. It’s stupid.

What’s even more stupid is buying beer at a bar by the yard, because “three feet of beer” can be any amount of volume ounces they want based on the inner diameter of the long tube, you have to drink it like some idiot blowing a glass trumpet, and you lose most of it to the classic yard slosh down the front of your shirt. But enough about last Saturday.

Roundabouts make complete logical sense, from a traffic flow perspective. Four-way stops are dumb. Why do I need to completely stop my car at an intersection if I’m the only one there? Why do three of us need to wait next to each other at a red light when no one else in any other direction is there to use the same intersection? It’s dumb. Roundabouts solve those problems with a continuous flow pattern that only requires yielding when someone else happens to be there.

But here’s the thing. No one knows how to use either of them. The metric system is complete nonsense when put into context in everyday American life.

“How far away is the movie theater?”

“One and three-quarter kilometers.”

“Never speak to me like that again.”

“How much gas did the car take?”

“Thirty-seven and a half liters.”

“I hate you.”

And just like the ridiculous metric system, no one knows how to use roundabouts. Everyone seems to know what to do at a stoplight, and about half the people seem to be able to operate successfully at a four-way stop sign. The other half have no clue how or when to turn left, but it’s just become a part of our daily routine to swear at those people and then move on with our lives.

Roundabouts, on the other hand, will always have at least one person who can’t figure it out. If they’re not in it yet, chances are good that they will not yield to those who are. And if they are in it, there’s a better-than-average possibility that they’ll stop in the circle to let someone in.

And that’s just the single-lane roundabouts. Don’t even get me started on when there’s an inside lane and an outside. Why the hell do they even build them like that? What could I possibly want to use the inside lane of a roundabout for? I just love turning left and want to do it all day?

We have a new roundabout in my town that has two right turn options for one of the streets. When approaching the intersection, you can stay in the far right lane and bypass the roundabout to make a right onto the street, or you can enter the roundabout and drive 480 degrees around to the left to end up on the same street. For the love of God.

The police don’t even seem to understand them. At least the police in Alaska. OK, to be fair, it was a campus cop at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks who pulled me over when we were on our way to their natural history museum. Their museum comes with my highest recommendation. Their roundabouts do not.

I had just gone through one of their roundabouts when he lit me up. I pulled over and he told me he had stopped me because I failed to use my turn signal in the roundabout.


I was not aware that turn signals were a thing in roundabouts. How does that work, exactly? I would need to approach the entrance to the roundabout with my right blinker on? Once inside, immediately switch to my left blinker for the trip around until I come to my exit point, where I will quickly swap back to my right blinker as I leave the circle? That’s as dumb as getting a yard of beer.

The cop didn’t offer any advice on the matter, immediately switching the subject to my town of Rocklin, California where he had once visited family. We were on his campus in the summertime, and I think he might just have been bored. I didn’t press the roundabout blinker question because it was clear he wasn’t going to ticket me. I think he just wanted someone to talk to.

So, the moral here is clear. If you are going to use a roundabout, do it in a high-crime area where traffic is minimal, yield only when appropriate and necessary, or whenever you feel it would also be the polite thing to do, and just flip your blinker back and forth at random while you are in or near the circle.

And stay out of that ridiculous inner lane.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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