Greater City Providence

You can’t just paint a roundabout

From somewhere in Europe we see a roundabout that is simply painted onto an intersection. Fast and cheap traffic calming perhaps, but it is clear from the video that it is confusing to some people. Although it has served the purpose of calming traffic, while confusing, traffic is moving slow and the video does not show many if any collisions. There are however a few cars that plow straight through without a care in the world that are accidents waiting to happen no doubt.

This may also point out something about roadmarkings in general. It seems that many drivers simply did not see the paint on the pavement until they were right on top of it, also, they seem to have not seen the roundabout sign posted at the intersection. Our accommodations for pedestrians tend to be roadmarkings and signs.

This video shows, that with proper physical interventions, people are able to figure out that they are in a roundabout and understand how to use it.

If drivers are blinded to roadmarkings and signs as the first video seems to indicate, perhaps those should not be the entirety of what we rely on to make safe accommodations for pedestrians.

Reader submission via: How We Drive

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Reminds me a little of the Centerdale roundabout. It’s a physical barrier, but it’s extended by brick pavers that look like the sidewalks in the area, yet are flush with the road. That means it’s easy to fly across it because everyone crosses the yellow circle and rides on those pavers because it’s the shortest distance. That confused me when I first moved to the area, but I do the same thing. Why bother slowing down and driving around it when you don’t have to?

  • Wow, I’m amazed that intersection got implemented in that way. A sign and paint definitely doesn’t cut it. That looks like a non-signalized 4 way intersection, drivers aren’t seeing stop signs probably assume cross traffic stops and I’m guessing aren’t seeing the traffic circle sign, which is way to close to the circle to useful to inform drivers to slow down. Definitely needs a treatment more like the demo from Ohio, or what I’ve seen in smaller intersetions in Europe, a humped circle in the center, can be driven over if necessary, but enough of a change in surface and appearance to dissuade casual driving over it.

  • One of the biggest complaints we get about roundabouts are from ADA advocates, particularly those that work with the blind. Visually impaired people are trained to use the pedestrian push-buttons and audible walk/don’t walk phases at traffic signals but are left with nothing at a roundabout. It’s an unforeseen consequence of a roundabout that will have to be dealt with eventually.

  • The first roundabout just needs a couple of potted plants in the middle.

    Adam, what four-way-stop do you know with push buttons?

  • Touche, in fact that was my initial reaction. However, ADA advocates I have spoken with do not like that argument. At a four-way stop all the vehicles have to stop, so visually impaired people can listen and know when it’s safe. At a roundabout, there is constant movement and only yielding so it is apparently more difficult. Again, this is what I was told. I have heard similar arguments about hybrid cars, “blind people can’t hear them so they’re dangerous.”

    Just pointing this out as an argument I have heard, something I never would have imagined being a problem. Obviously the benefits of a roundabout outweigh the minor negatives such as this.

  • Congress has actually required USDOT to adopt a standard for alert sounds for electric and hybrid vehicles. It would probably make the most sense to adopt the standards that the Japanese already have in place.


    The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 was approved by the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on December 9, 2010 and passed by the House of Representatives by 379 to 30 on December 16, 2010. The act does not stipulate a specific speed for the simulated noise but requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to study and establish a motor vehicle safety standard that would set requirements for an alert sound that allows blind and other pedestrians to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle, and the ruling must be finalized within eighteen months. The bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 4, 2011.

    I’ve had hybrids sneek up on me before due to their near silence.

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