Roundabouts contribute positively to traffic flow

I was pleased to read recently in the Cape Breton Post that Nova Scotia’s Department of Transport is moving forward with a significant programme of roadworks that will see numerous roundabouts installed in arterial roads throughout the island (Roundabouts changing Cape Breton road map, Cape Breton Post, 29 January 2021). As a town planner, I have known for years that the evidence demonstrates that roundabouts are not only more efficient in keeping traffic flowing, they’re also significantly safer as they eliminate the possibility of a t-bone crash at a 90 degree angle. Roundabouts have long been a staple of road and street networks outside of North America. When I first arrived in Australia, I was astonished by the number of roundabouts – they’re at nearly every intersection, large or small, and include ‘mini-roundabouts’ which are fitted into the space of a standard intersection. Four-way stops are non-existent here and stop signs themselves are very rare. Intersections have either a roundabout, traffic signal, or – most commonly- a give way (yield) sign. After a few months of driving, I quickly came to appreciate the roundabout because you rarely need to stop, instead having only to slow, check for other vehicles in the traffic circle, and then carry on with your journey. When I visited Cape Breton for the first time after leaving, some two and half years later, I felt that driving, especially in Sydney with its numerous four-way stops, consisted of constant stopping and starting. After using roundabouts, you can’t help but feel vulnerable and exposed when inching across an open four-way stop with no protection from a distracted driver. I hope Nova Scotia continues to install roundabouts and that the local government also adopts them when future works are undertaken on municipal streets, because roundabouts are not only good town planning but they also make your journey much more safe and smooth.

This piece was originally published in the Cape Breton Post on 19 February 2021.