To the editor:
I have just moved back to the Okanagan and was lucky enough to find a great apartment located in Lake Country. Let me expand on that, just for location clarity sake, it is located in the area previously known as Winfield. The apartment’s location, within the building, allows me an unobstructed view of a farmer’s field, a golf course, a beautiful Okanagan hillside and most importantly, to this letter anyways, a traffic roundabout. I understand there are two roundabouts in Lake Country and I was lucky enough to end up over looking one of them.
Watching this roundabout has really become an interesting part of my day. My apartment’s balcony affords me a complete view of this engineering example of traffic control and I have recently got into the habit of drinking my morning coffee from this vantage point. I try my best to catch the morning commute and often go out again around 4 p.m. week days, to catch the evening commute just to watch all the action.
Seems that roundabouts are a strange and misunderstood phenomenon here in Lake Country. Now I say this in the kindest way possible, passing no judgement on anyone. However, I have perceived a real lack of understanding when it comes to navigating this structure.
I understand traffic circles have been around for a long time in other parts of the world but I believe they are a newer traffic control device in most of Canada. I also believe it will take a few more years of us using them to get a real understanding of how they actually work. By the way, there is tons of information regarding their proper use on the Internet. This information is provided mostly by ICBC and, after watching my roundabout for the past month or so, it is obvious why ICBC is interested in sharing roundabout education.
So here are some simple traffic circle/roundabout instructions which I copied from the Ministry of Transportation web site:
“How to Use Roundabouts:
It’s Simple. Really. (Their statement, not mine. My comments in brackets.)
A roundabout is a circular intersection without stop signs or electronic signals. Traffic flows counter-clockwise around a central island. Roundabouts are growing in popularity across Canada and U.S. Roundabouts reduce vehicle speeds through an intersection, and as a result improve safety for all road users—pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. See more at: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/rounabouts/#sthash.2WrejHVe.dpuf
The Rules Are Simple: (Their rules)
• Reduce your speed (my traffic circle/roundabout is marked at 20 km/h although I am certain the signs are not big enough as no one seems to notice them) and choose your lane (easy choice, there is only one lane to contend with).
• Watch for road signs. (There is a yield sign at each entrance to the traffic circle/roundabout, once again they may be too small to notice)
• Watch for pedestrians and cyclists and be ready to stop
• Always yield to traffic already in the roundabout (it will be coming from your left, hopefully)
• Wait for a safe gap in the traffic, remembering that those in the roundabout have the right-of-way
• Enter the roundabout to your right (please)
• Continue counter-clockwise until you reach your exit
• Use your right turn signal before exiting (my unofficial poll indicates this is done by one out of every three drivers)
• Watch for pedestrians and cyclists
• Never stop in a roundabout unless the traffic conditions require it.”
Now in closing, I have to admit I am a little conflicted about sharing this information. Why? Because I am really enjoying the entertainment factor provided by the motorists using this roundabout.
I have seen some awesome hand signalling (there is, however, one particular hand gesture that seems a bit more prevalent than all the others). I have heard a number of descriptive words and, although I have probably heard them all before, they have been delivered with much gusto and with much passion (did you know your screams can be heard for some distance outside the interior of your vehicle even if all the windows are up?).
I have also heard a cacophony of extended horn honks (I suspect the honker believes that the length of the honk, as opposed to just the honks loudness, expresses the true meaning of their emotions in the moment). I have also seen a catalog of looks running from angry to apologetic.
It’s all in a day’s roundabout watching and I am certain I haven’t heard or seen it all yet. After all, winter is on the way.
However, the other side of me hopes that we all are considerate enough to take the time to review the road rules around using roundabouts. It is the least we can do to protect ourselves and those around us, no matter what they have called us in the past.
Kurtis F. Robinson, Lake Country