You know how we like roundabouts in the UK? I thought we were world-class roundabout proponents.
Take, for example, multi-mini ‘magic’ roundabouts. In the most famous, in Swindon, five mini-roundabouts create one large one that is officially signposted ‘The Magic Roundabout’. There’s a technically more challenging, six-roundabout affair in Hemel Hempstead, but it’s lesser known, I suspect, because it’s merely called ‘The Plough Roundabout’. But both are little short of works of genius.
I use the Hemel Hempstead one quite often, and short of a hugely extravagant system of flyovers that would occupy the entirety of south Hertfordshire, I can’t think of a system that would deal with so much traffic, from so many routes, with such deftness.
Sure, there’s a bit of a skill to it – a touch of planning required – but all you really need to remember is that each one is a roundabout and the same rules apply to each one.
If there was one thing, I thought, that the British did wrong with roundabouts, it was routinely stick traffic lights on what is, ultimately, a fine engineering answer all on its own, and leave them on all the time. Okay, sometimes, at really busy times, traffic lights are useful. But wilfully stopping vehicles in quieter traffic conditions is unnecessary, polluting, wasteful and infuriating.