BY WES BUTLER
Intersections with stoplights are becoming a thing of the past, as roundabouts take their place. According to a report released by the Region of Waterloo in November 2011, 17 roundabouts have been built on regional roads. Six have been built in Cambridge, eight in Kitchener, two in Waterloo and one in Woolwich.
I don’t see the point of roundabouts, because they just lead to driver confusion.
A few years back, I couldn’t help but notice two women driving into the roundabout at and Conestoga boulevards. They drove around it once, but didn’t enter a street. I figured they were just lost, or had trouble exiting because of congestion. I saw them drive around three more times, and flailing their arms inside their car. They were obviously becoming frustrated, and would have rather driven through a controlled intersection.
The region tries to rectify this by creating videos instructing drivers on how they should approach a roundabout. These don’t help, because drivers think, when viewing these, that new rules are being added to something already complicated.
Roundabouts are supposed to keep traffic flowing at all times. When you approach one, you’re expected to yield to other drivers already in it. If the way is clear, and there are no pedestrians in the crosswalk, then you can drive through it, and exit at the street you want. But I’ve found this isn’t happening. At the roundabout at Dickie Settlement Road and Fountain Street, drivers don’t yield to others, but instead take it as a free-for-all.
According to the region’s roundabouts website (www.regionofwaterloo.ca), roundabouts reduce accidents, manage increased traffic demand and help improve air quality by eliminating unnecessary stops and idling.
However, roundabouts aren’t controlled by anything. Instead, drivers only have each other to rely on, a concept that has plenty of disadvantages.
My problem with them is just that – there’s neither stop signs nor traffic lights. With uncontrolled intersections, the risk of accidents could increase due to a lack of driver education and they aren’t good for drivers who have had their licences for years, because they are used to controlled intersections.
If traffic is supposed to flow continuously, then drivers also have to adjust to shorter gaps in a roundabout when the flow increases throughout the day, increasing the risk of accidents.
I know roundabouts are often considered beneficial, and some people find them better to drive through than controlled intersections. But, when you have to rely on drivers to be considerate of each other and follow the rules, I think you are asking for trouble.