Monday, January 7, 2008

Jughandles, Traffic Circles and Roundabouts: When Bad Design Replaces Bad Design You Get Bad Design Squared

There was an article in the NY Times by Jill P. Capuzzo that covered the implementation of different traffic circle designs in New Jersey. New Jersey is infamous for jughandles, where you need to make a right to make a left. You know there is a jughandle in your future if you see a white sign that says ALL TURNS FROM RIGHT LANE near the exit signs. Some of the disadvantages of jughandles are that they cause "driver confusion" and "pedestrian conflict." No wonder people hate the Garden State.

Traffic circles in NJ are also awful. I've been at them many times feeling the same way: What do I do? Why won't he go? What lane should I be in? These feelings are not just my own. Traffic circles typically generate bad experiences because of congestion and high accident rates. At least once a week I traverse the Somerville Circle and there is the same angst every time I do.

Now there is the roundabout making a splash. New Jersey has been replacing some traffic circles with these European-inspired designs. The problem is that even though traffic circles are dreadful, people have gotten used to them. They don't like them, but know how to navigate them. Roundabouts have a different way of merging traffic, which leaves drivers in a worse state than before. Those who used to have the right of way now have to yield. Imagine having to drive on a stretch of road where you have one of each. Multiple bad design experiences have no upside.

Expected Roundabout:

Unexpected Roundabout:

Magic Roundabout (Swindon, UK):

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