The Roundabout of Rules 2

Back in November 2014 I wrote a blog post about a roundabout near to my old place of work in Bellshill. I found that drivers consistently negotiated it incorrectly, disobeying the rules of the road as set out in the Highway Code. The main issue was that drivers were exiting the third exit of the roundabout by using the left lane. If you re-read the post (which is riddled with mis-typed words annoyingly) the issue is laid out perfectly, but it actually comes down to the incorrectly designed roundabout. The roundabout in question breaks the simple rules around desire lines – the inherent lines we as humans aim for when travelling. Go to any retail park in the UK and I am sure you’ll find a well-worn dirt path through some grass that links it either from a main road or a housing estate where people have walked through an area “they are not supposed to” to skip over barriers and such. There is one at my current office – a quick shortcut that is missing a paved path, so instead we’ve worn one into the grass.

The roundabout is wrongly designed because it puts the optimal route against the actual route. The optimal route in the old post was straight on, and it isn’t designed that way. In fact, road lovers like myself have a term for this issue – it’s called a Turn Off to Stay On (TOTSO). It is where due to a design issue to stay “on” the road you actually have to turn “off” it. A great example is just near to my house, regarding the A595 that takes people from Cumbria to Carlisle. This road comes from the north and hits the A66 at Cockermouth, multiplexing (another road term; it shares the route with another road, in this case the A595 shares the line with the A66 for a few miles past our house – locals even call this part, behind our house, the A595, when it’s technically the A66 (and also the A595) *pushes glasses up nose*). Officially there isn’t a problem, but it means that to get to the rest of the A595 you have to turn right – left is Cockermouth and straight on is the A66 towards Penrith. 

There is another roundabout that is causing problems daily for me, and it’s another roundabout where technically the “straight” through-route is the third exit. Now, based on the earlier post, you could think that my issues is the exact same as before, but you’d be wrong. Let’s return to the Highway Code that I quoted in the previous post.

186

Signals and position

When taking the first exit to the left, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

signal left and approach in the left-hand lane

keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signalling left to leave.

When taking an exit to the right or going full circle, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

signal right and approach in the right-hand lane

keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout

signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.

Here’s the roundabout in question. 

As you can see, like the original roundabout, the straight route is the one that's actually right. However, that’s not my issue this time. I can’t show you the Google Satellite photo of the lanes because they’ve not updated since it was being built (seriously, it opened in 2008 for crying out loud) so I have now switched to Bing and on the approach there are arrows added to the two lanes, indicating that I can’t complain about people going “right” in the left lane. Both approach lanes are for going straight on, and that actually doesn’t contravene the highway code above (see my emphasis).

The issue is on the otherside. This is where I have a problem. See, in the mornings most people line up on the left lane, leading to occasionally a long tailback at the junction. At first I was obeying the rules of the road as I interpreted them needing to be in the far right lane. This lead to a serious amount of conflict – can you see the exit on the roundabout? Here it is blown up.

The issue I have is that there is literally no space to remerge. The two lanes on the roundabout lead to one lane on the exit, which wouldn’t be an issue if two things happened.

  1. 1the road was even just slightly longer than it currently is, which gives no space for a gradual merge meaning that you are always forcing your way over
  2. the drivers weren’t total idiots

In the six months I’ve been driving to work this way I’ve realised that the other drivers in the left lane see this right handed approach to the roundabout as a very aggressive move. In a week it might be one in every two attempts to move over in merge and during the natural flow of the traffic I’ll find someone not interested in giving way. The wee arrow you see telling me to merge implies that the other traffic will let me merge. In fact, I went to look at the highway code to check but there was little to nothing about the merging arrow in the document oddly, only a reference in rule 134 about merging – “You should follow the signs and road markings and get into the lane as directed. In congested road conditions do not change lanes unnecessarily. Merging in turn is recommended but only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed”.

There appears to be no consensus about this. Is the person in the right lane overtaking? Then yes, the left should give way. Is there an arrow telling them to move in? Then yes, the left should give way. But is the right crossing a series of broken lane markings? Then the right should give way. Is their lane ending? Then they should give way until there is a safe gap. The problem is that there is no “right of way” or “right to give way” in this scenario, and it leads to dangerous movements by many drivers, who in the worst case match me for pace around the roundabout and out to the exit to make sure that I am not going to get ahead of them after the merge. If you look at it from both perspectives too it seems bad – I’m forcing my way on the right if you’re on the left, and I believe you’re being a unhelpful driver if I’m on the right!

So yeah, not as clear cut. But then again, it comes down to one major thing – poor design. This is a short couple of miles of dual carriageway sandwiched between two other roads – single carriageway at the south and a dual carriageway to the north, that serves as a quick bypass and was a quick fix. At some point you’d imagine this road will be connected up better, but for now, it’s a wee island of 70mph (plus) driving amongst single carriageway roads.