Roundabouts and traffic circles are not new to British Columbia, but if the complaints in my inbox are any indication, they are still totally mystifying to some drivers. Common issues include bulldozing into the circle without yielding, signalling when there is no need, not signalling when there is a need, and yes, going around them in the wrong direction.
Most e-mails observe that while new drivers may be taught how to use these intersections properly, the rest of us have to figure it out on our own and somebody has to clue us in. In general, fingers point to either the provincial government or ICBC having primary responsibility for this task. I disagree. Basic responsibility for keeping driving skills up to date rest with the individual driver.
There is certainly no lack of information on the subject. ICBC has a web page on How to Use a Roundabout, a Roundabout Information Guide and the Learn to Drive Smart manual. TranBC’s web site explains Rules of the Roundabout, a How to Use Roundabouts Guide and has videos to watch and learn from.
Of course, DriveSmartBC web site visitors have a collection of roundabout and traffic circle information to browse as well.
If you think about it, the task is not that difficult. As you approach any intersection you scan for other road users, vehicles, cycles and pedestrians, and signs that control your travel.
In the case of a single lane roundabout or traffic circle, you see a yield sign as you approach. If there is any other road user present, you must yield to them as necessary prior to entering. The center is marked with a sign that tells you to proceed around it to the right. Since that is the only way to go, no signal is required.
Exiting does require a signal to tell others what you are choosing to do.
When the roundabout has two lanes, things become a bit more complicated but when broken down into individual steps there is nothing new here either.
As you approach the roundabout there is a sign that tells you which lane you must enter the roundabout from based on where you intend to exit. Switch to the appropriate lane if necessary.
Yield as usual and proceed counterclockwise.
Follow the lane use markings once you are inside. If you are nearest the center, exit into the leftmost lane. Otherwise, exit into the right lane.
Confused? There is nothing to stop you from staying in the roundabout and trying again when the next opportunity comes around.
The only other complication that comes to mind is if you are approached by an emergency vehicle, but that’s not really different either. If you are in the roundabout, get out and pull over. If you are approaching the roundabout, stop before you enter and let the emergency vehicle pass.
Finally, what happens when you encounter a traffic circle that doesn’t have yield signs posted? We yield to the right at uncontrolled intersections, don’t we? Hmmm. I guess that will have to be the subject of a future article because I don’t have a definitive answer for you.