They’re popular all across Europe and now roundabouts are starting to make their way to Ontario.
The city of Clarington is among a growing number of municipalities adding two-lane roundabouts to their city streets.
“The biggest reason for the roundabouts is safety,” Ron Albright, Clarington’s assistant director of engineering services, explained. “When you have a green light, you’re going at the posted speed, which could be 60 or 80 kilometres an hour. For a roundabout, … essentially you’re slowing down to 20 or 30 kilometres an hour, so even if there is an incident, it’s less severe.”
Three new roundabouts have been installed on Holt Road at Highway 401 in Bowmanville to help keep traffic moving outside the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant.
Previously, there were no streetlights to direct cars making left turns off and onto the highway.
The municipality said roundabouts are also more cost effective when it comes to long-term maintenance.
According to Albright, traditional traffic lights cost about $5,000 a year in upkeep.
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While many drivers are welcoming the new traffic controls, driving instructor Joe Zambri said the problem is that many don’t know exactly how to use them.
“Eight, nine out of 10 people don’t know what to do in here,” Zambri said.
He said the biggest issue he sees is people failing to signal — particularly on left turns.
“They don’t give oncoming traffic a chance to know what they’re doing. That’s where it creates a problem and I’ve seen accidents because of it,” Zambri explained.
According to the Ministry of Transportation, drivers should approach the roundabout in the correct lane, depending on where they are headed. Those entering the roundabout must always yield to traffic in both lanes already inside, and wait for a gap before proceeding. Motorists should never stop inside the roundabout, except to avoid a collision.
Albright said the Municipality of Clarington is working with the Ministry of Transportation to study other streets that cross Highway 401 east of Holt Road to see if roundabouts could also work there.
In Waterloo Region there are currently 26 roundabouts on regional roads, and the region has plans to add at least a dozen more in the coming years.
“There’s a great benefit to roundabouts,” Zambri said. “But in the same breath, you have to have the knowledge of what to do out here. And if you don’t have that knowledge, you’re going to get into a problem.”