Chet Skwarcan is an award-winning engineer, writer, and industry innovator in the field of traffic engineering. He is known for leveraging his creativity, logic, and technology to solve today’s engineering challenges.

Is This the World’s First Modern Roundabout?

I came across this roundabout picture approximately 15 years ago and decided it was the world’s first modern roundabout—at least the first one in this particular part of the world (and certainly the first one at this intersection). I keep this picture on the wall next to my drafting table to provide inspiration when designing roundabouts. Now the Federal Highway has since published something they call “design guidelines” however this particular picture remains my go-to.

I consider this roundabout “modern” because of the fresh paint on the tire plus it appears to be bicycle-friendly. Also, the central island feature is not only low maintenance and very beautiful but satisfies all site distance criteria known to man. Note also the perfectly painted red arrows clearly indicating a clockwise circulation pattern. This tells me the location is likely in the southern hemisphere—probably Antartica or maybe Australia—but I’m not sure (the Coriolis Effect on traffic flow is still under debate). It could just be my imagination, but as someone who hales from the northern hemisphere, I generally feel compelled to drive counter-clockwise within roundabouts (but not always).

You may have noticed near the central island there appears to be a bit of a drainage situation (design engineers like to call things like these “situations” rather than problems). This could simply be the result of over-watering the landscaping or perhaps poor sub grade compaction in the vicinity of the truck apron. In any case, this should be resolved before the next big freeze…

Bottom line? This roundabout is intuitive and works great. Now I agree roundabouts are not automatically the solution for every intersection. But when appropriately located and properly designed, they can be magical. Unfortunately however, that is not always the case. When a roundabout is hastily implemented, it creates driver frustration and the public quickly decides they “hate roundabouts” — in fact, I sometimes wonder if there might be a market for “Roundabout Repair & Counseling”, hmmm…