August 15


Responding to Roundabout Concerns

By Mike Spack

August 15, 2017

Department of Transportation, DOT, Joint ITE/CITE 2017 Annual Meeting and Exhibit, public concern, Roundabout, roundabout concern, traffic agency

By Jonah Finkelstein, EIT

Roundabouts have readily been adopted in most European countries, but are still relatively new to North American drivers.  The benefits of roundabouts are numerous, but sometimes the biggest road block to implementing them is addressing the concerns of agencies and the public.

During this year’s Joint ITE/CITE 2017 Annual Meeting and Exhibit in Toronto, I attended a breakout session discussion about responding to common roundabouts concerns. During this discussion, Steve van De Keere, the Director of Transportation for the Region of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada discussed his experience with the department of transportation’s (DOT) hesitation of installing roundabouts on state roadways. The following list was compiled through a survey put forth to State DOTs listing their top concerns:

  • Liability. Concerns with respects to liability in the case of vehicular or pedestrian accidents.
  • Lack of Design Standards. Concerns with respect to relatively new design standards that have not experienced the test of time as much as signalized intersection.
  • Unsure if Safe. Concerns with safety, especially with respect to vehicle-pedestrian accidents.
  • Unsure if Efficient. Concerns that a roundabout is not the correct traffic control device and that if volume increases the roundabout will become inefficient.
  • Drivers won’t Learn Safe Operation. Concerns that drivers will not learn safe roundabout operation, specifically with respect to two-by-two roundabouts.

Steve van De Keere also shared his thoughts on responding to the above concerns, which included the following:

  • Use Existing Examples and Data. There are plenty of roundabouts in operation throughout the world which can be referenced to help overcome concerns.  Find similar roundabouts to the one being proposed to show how a roundabout is the proper traffic control device for the specific intersection. One example is with crash rates. Crash rates are three times lower at roundabouts when compared to a signalized Intersection.
  • Visit Existing Roundabouts. Bring interested parties to existing roundabouts to walk and drive the intersections. This helps grow familiarity and remove concern caused by unfamiliarity of the traffic control device.
  • Work with the Media. Work with the media to present the positives of roundabouts and how it can be a beneficial traffic device to a community. This helps increase driver understanding as well as demystify the roundabout.

One additional technique that Spack Consulting has used, is creating a model of the roundabout to be used with small toy cars (think Matchbox or Hot Wheel cars) and allow the public to interact with the model during public forums. This type of visual aid is helpful in creating a dialogue with the public and allow transportation professionals the opportunity to see how the roundabout would work in very specific examples.

Have you run into any concerns with respect to roundabouts installation? We would love to hear about your experience and responses to these concerns in the comment section below.


  • Here in the UK we’ve utilised roundabouts and mini-roundabouts for some considerable time. As a multi-arm junction solution roundabouts have good capacity and, if working within capacity minimum delay. Accidents tend to be rear end shunts near the give-way (yield) line and circulatory collisions due to poor lane discipline. These collisions tend to be relatively low speed.
    The big complaint we hear is lane discipline. I note in the photo accompanying this article the south to north east movement has a vehicle path moving to the inside of the circulatory and then straightening out to the exit, this is where collisions occur. On multi lane circulatorys, drivers need to learn to follow the curve and stay in lane. Used sensibly roundabouts are a great solution to the right problem.

  • We should be careful with two-lanes and pedestrians. If you with a two-laner mean two circulating lanes. Crash data analysis from Sweden show that multi-lane roundabouts may be slightly less safe than signalized intersections for pedestrians. On the other hand, some years ago, the Swedes analyzed all roundabouts with respect to pedestrian safety and found that single-laners have much fewer pedestrian crashes than signals and that the 58 roundabouts with the highest pedestrian volumes (with 28 million pedestrians crossing and 658 million automobiles entering during the period of analysis) had 3 pedestrian crashes (none with serious injuries) whereas they would have been expected to have had 11.2 pedestrian crashes (with 2.3 serious injuries) if they had been signalized. For multi-laners however, there was one fatality and 2 other serious injuries whereas they would have been expected to have 0.1 fatality and 2.8 serious injuries if signalized. Small numbers but not indicating better safety…

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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