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Roundabouts move vehicles more efficiently and reduce major collisions – but only if everyone is using them correctly.WendellandCarolyn/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

With summer season well under way, you can expect to see motorcycles and cyclists sharing traffic circles, but many motorists are not looking for them. Unlike in the playground, where a pushing match can end a quarrel, a pushing match with a motorcycle or a cyclist on the roundabout ends with a life-threatening time out.

Roundabouts were introduced in Canada 30 years ago. According to Transport Canada, they move vehicles more efficiently and reduce major collisions – but only if everyone is using them correctly. Here are the rules to keep in mind:

  1. Watch for the roundabout sign before the intersection. Does it show a single or multilane circle? If there are multiple lanes, move to the correct lane before entering the circle. If you are taking the circle’s first exit, stay in the right lane as you approach the roundabout. If you are going straight, turning left or doing a U-turn, enter from the left lane into the left lane of the circle.
  2. Roundabout traffic in North America travels counter-clockwise.
  3. Before you enter – yield. The vehicles – including motorcycles and bicycles – in the roundabout have the right of way. When it’s safe, enter the lane you’ve committed to. Watch for the drivers already in the left lane who are exiting at the next corner.
  4. Use your signal to warn the other drivers of your intent. If you are leaving the roundabout, signal right. If you are continuing around, you should be in the inside lane and signalling left.
  5. If there is a large truck in the roundabout, give it room and do not attempt to pass. Larger trucks are entitled to use as much space as they need to navigate the circle. The soft-curbed truck apron in the middle gives them even more roadway to use.
  6. When exiting, signal, shoulder-check and watch for pedestrians and cyclists crossing the intersection before continuing on your way.
  7. As a motorcyclist or a cyclist, stay in the middle of the lane or as far left in the lane as possible to be clearly visible and to discourage motorists from trying to pass you. Or, if you are on skinny tires, consider hopping off and walking the bike through the crosswalks.

Studies out of the U.S. show that roundabouts can move traffic up to 20 per cent more efficiently through an intersection. A single-lane modern roundabout can move 20,000 to 25,000 vehicles in a day, while a multilane can move up to 50,000. Because vehicles are moving slowly through the intersection rather than stopping, fuel consumption and emissions are reduced.

Be happy Canada seems to limit the roundabout to a few lanes. The Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England includes five mini-roundabouts arranged around a sixth central ring, all contained in the final seventh ring.

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