Where is this oversized (and traffic jammed) traffic circle?

The article does not say as far as I can tell. But I’ve seen the picture around elsewhere. I suspect it’s not in the US.

I can’t help you identify your roundabout (as we call them in the UK) but can offer you Swindon’s Magic Roundabout (Swindon, Wiltshire, South of England) which comprises five mini roundabouts around a central roundabout, all of them together comprising a seventh roundabout.

I once drove to Swindon but being a coward decided to give it a miss.


A Bloomberg article credits the photo to Reuters/China Daily but does not identify the location. Maybe it’s in China.

Xiamen, China

… according to picture #18 (scroll down), here

I would have called it a roundabout, except that it’s way too big to be one of those. So I used a more generic term. As for the Swindon’s “magic” roundabout, the phrase “should be nuked from orbit” comes to mind.

Anyway, thanks to @cytop for finding where it is.

It bugs me that people like to add “TERRIFYING” or similar adjectives to what is a highly efficient way of getting traffic from five major roads through a junction.

Here is how it works from above and you can see that large volumes of traffic are sliding smoothly through. It helps that most of the drivers are local and are familiar with how it works - it is a little disconcerting for a stranger, but it is possible to go round the outside. Swindon’s Magic Roundabout from the air - YouTube

It would never work here in the good ol’ USA – too people are totally clueless about what to do with a simple crossroads circle. They put in a mini-circle near where I live with light rail tracks through the middle of it – I complained about it a while back and it’s the only one on the whole line like that. Maybe it’s an experiment.

I am often coming south on Horne and I’m really cautious when someone’s ahead of me because I just don’t know what they’re going to do when the reach the circle. Once I had someone stop dead with no one in the circle nor approaching on Main to the left for three whole seconds until I laid on the horn.

Likewise when I’m in the circle, I don’t really count on someone approaching it to stop. Something like Swindon would make their heads explode.

Nitpick: that’s not a mini-roundabout. To be a mini, the center island has to be fully mountable. That is, large vehicles, like semi-trucks and buses, can go over the top with their back wheels if they have to. Think of it as being so small that the entire center island is a truck apron.

Eh. It’s smaller than any of the other roundabouts in the area and the curb is rounded up to the dotty parts where the plants are in the middle. You can’t see it on Streetview yet because they’ve not been updated.

I’d be curious how a GPS gives precise verbal instructions for that. We’ve got a roundabout a bit south of me, and if my GPS is talking to me it will say something like “veer left” but the scene in front of me will have more than one option, so it’s pretty useless.

Mini roundabouts don’t have any plants in their center. Nor signs. Their center islands are completed paved and meant to be driven over if necessary. That one may be more compact than most, but it’s not a mini.

Streetview cars have apparently been grounded for the duration of the pandemic. I haven’t seen any Streetview pictures more recent than February and I look at a lot of them.

The cars are in fact moving smoothly but I cannot for the life of me discern the rules for right-of-way while watching that. I also can’t see why it’s necessary to have something so complicated for a five-way circle when it seems to me that a conventional one with two (or maybe three) lanes would do the job as well. I cannot understand how all those little micro-circles and line-up-and-wait spots work.

Mine will say something like “take the second right, Mapcase Avenue.” “Veer right” would be the earlier instruction that gets me into the circle. Remember, in the U.S. all the exits from a circle will be on the right, so you just need to count until you get to the name you want.

Rules are simple - find the shortest route and give way to traffic from the right. Before this complicated roundabout was built, there was a simple large roundabout. Traffic frequently backed up half’s mile or more in all directions. They tried adding traffic lights but that made it worse.

Ive driven in England, Australia, and New Zealand and other than driving on the wrong side of the road (And some one-lane bridges in NZ) it’s an incredibly simple and efficient system. I’ve seen a few here in Canada; we should have a lot more. It’s more efficient when traffic is light, nobody has to come to a full stop like all our stop signs and worse, 4-way stops.

Not sure what the problem is, other than the USA has some incredibly stupid drivers, I suppose? The circles have a “YIELD” for everyone entering the circle. If a North American driver does not know what yield means, they really should not be driving.

Another interesting take is the non-traffic non-circles on Hwy 1 in NJ north of Trenton; to avoid left turn lights on a busy road, there are spots where left turn is a semicircle - turn off to the right with right-turn traffic, then follow the semi-circle to queue with the cross traffic for a light for traffic to cross the main road. Since there’s a similar construct o the other side, it also facilitates U-turns. basically, two semi-circles, with a road down the middle. Very efficient, in my opinion.

That’s the New Jersey Jughandle!

And I wish they would catch on elsewhere in the United States. They remove left turns from major highways while still giving people who need to go “left” a chance.

We have lots of newer small roundabouts here, and they seem to be catching on. The ugly traffic circles of the old days are being replaced with better designs. In many cases those were bad because the right-of-way rules were inconsistent.

One particularly nasty one near my house was configured so the larger road always had right-of-way, so it was a roundabout in appearance only. The new replacement is a proper one, where everyone has to yield to cars already inside.

Roundabouts are very popular where I live in Washington State. They’re called ‘roundabouts’ here.

Jughandles were common in parts of MO also. Usually on those highways that were sort of freeways-lite. More than a mere (sub-)urban main drag, less than a limited access freeway.

As you say, the key to roundabout acceptance is to sign them all and sign them all the same way.

Americans, like mules, are trainable. It just takes a lot of hay, a lot of patience, and a very large stick plus the willingness to use it. But they are not good at subtle, nor at inconsistent.

This the legendary ‘Triple Roundabout of Doom’ in Mooroolbark (an outer suburb of Melbourne.


Why ‘Roundabout of Doom’? Because if you look at the Google Maps link above, you will notice, just adjacent to one of the roundabout’s many exits, the VicRoads Licence Testing Centre. Many a poor young teenager has confidently rocked up there for his driving test, only to collapse into a confused, trembling mess within the first 500 metres.

The main thing is lack of familiarity, especially older drivers who didn’t grow up with them. It’s not stupidity; drivers in the US and Canada are no stupider (or smarter) than drivers elsewhere. Modern roundabouts (as opposed to the older rotaries) were invented in 1966 in Britain and became widespread there fairly promptly. And then spread to Western Europe as well as Australia and NZ. So drivers in those countries have had lots of experience for their entire driving career. I’m sure when they were first introduced in those places, there were lots of drivers who didn’t like them and had problems driving in them. Just like the US and Canada.

The first modern roundabouts in the US were built in 1990 (Las Vegas area) and the first in Canada was in 1998 (Montreal). But there were only a couple-three hundred in the entire US by the turn of the millenium. It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that they really started to be built in significant numbers. And there’s still quite a few towns that don’t have any.

Anyway, there’s now over 7000 in the US and close to 1000 in Canada. There a few places that have large numbers: Carmel IN has around 130 (and three of its neighboring towns (Westfield, Fishers, and Noblesville) have 30-some each); Colorado Springs about 60; Loverland CO 45; Frisco TX[*], Bend OR, and Conway AR about 3 dozen each. In Canada, the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area has about 40.


[*] Yes, the city that Dallas Cowboys have their team HQ in. There’s a roundabout near their HQ building that has a sculpture of a team huddle in its center island.