Going in Circles – Dispelling the Fears of Roundabouts

Michelle Avola
Ex Director of NPC

If you have been driving or biking around town, you’ve probably noticed several intersection upgrades like this roundabout on Central Avenue.

Although there are differences of opinion, modern roundabouts have been deemed a “proven safety countermeasure” by the U.S. Department of Transportation. AARP, the Florida Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and countless municipalities across the country agree, so why is it such a challenge to gain acceptance for roundabouts in Collier County?

Did you know personal injuries and fatalities drop as much as 90% in modern roundabouts as compared to signalized intersections according to the Federal Highway Administration?

Roundabouts naturally slow traffic, reducing crashes and their severity, but because roundabouts can handle 30-50% more traffic, they improve traffic flow and reduce travel times.

Pedestrians have an easier time crossing because they must only watch one direction of traffic at a time. Bicyclists can safely use the road to travel through the roundabout, or they can use the pedestrian crossings if that feels more comfortable.

Many people who feel uncomfortable navigating a roundabout say they are unsure how to drive or ride through them or they don’t think other drivers know how to use roundabouts correctly. The City of Naples, the Blue Zones Project, Naples Pathways Coalition and Safe Routes to School have been circulating educational materials to help everyone better understand how to safely travel through a roundabout whether by car, bike, or on foot.

The Florida Department of Transportation has created the brochure to the right to explain the usage and benefits of roundabouts. Here are a few tips for motorists when using a roundabout:

  • Decide where you want to go (which exit you will take).
  • Slow down upon approaching the roundabout and ALWAYS go to the right and travel in a counterclockwise direction.
  • The vehicles already in the roundabout have the right-of-way but must allow entry to those on bicycles and yield to pedestrians.
  • Use your turn signal prior to making your exit, and if you happen to miss your street, continue traveling around the circle until you are back at your exit.

Now a couple tips for pedestrians:

  • Stay on designated walkways and crosswalks, and never cross through the center of the roundabout.
  • Even though pedestrians have the right-of-way, always watch for cars. If you have not made eye contact with the driver, they probably do not see you.

And finally, some tips for cyclists:

  • If you are approaching a roundabout from a bike lane, merge into the entry lane.
  • When on a road, bicycles are considered a vehicle and should enter the roundabout much like an automobile, yielding to traffic already in the roundabout.
  • Communicate your intention to exit by pointing to your destination.
  • If riding in the roundabout seems uncomfortable, dismount at the crosswalk and walk your bike, following the tips for pedestrians.

As with many things in life, practice increases your comfort level. Now that you have this information to help you correctly use a roundabout, don’t avoid them. They truly are a much safer and more efficient way to go!

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