The best way to observe the good and bad of mankind is to condense their actions into one small place. All elements of human nature can then be identified and observed. There is no better example of this than the roundabout in Thief River Falls.
First off, I really like the roundabout as they cost way less than stoplights and need minimal maintenance. The success of a roundabout depends on a well-disciplined populace who understand a few basic rules of the road. I’ve observed our roundabout to work very well until a small group with little knowledge of the rules of right-of-way decides to invade this efficient little bit of traffic landscaping and raise absolute Cain.
A roundabout depends on adherence to observance of right of way. In other words, if someone is in the roundabout or approaching from your left, you wait until they have driven past your entrance to the roundabout. After they have passed, you may quickly enter the roundabout and others will wait for you. It doesn’t matter if several cars come from the same direction, you wait until they pass and then you enter. You take turns in a roundabout and once oncoming traffic has cleared then you own the roundabout until you, and those waiting behind you, have exited the roundabout.
Now, when you are waiting, times crawls-however, when you become oncoming traffic those waiting to enter the roundabout find that time crawls for them also-that’s why everyone takes turns. If you find the time to enter the roundabout beyond what your patience can take then you do not have a roundabout problem, you have patience problem. We all share the roundabout, some willingly and some not-if the right of way is the rule of a roundabout then patience is the spirit that powers the rule.
Now, here’s one of the problems I see at the roundabout; Minnesota Nice. If it is your turn to enter the roundabout and decide you will instead disobey the rules of right of way so the next guy can enter first (and you can appear to be sooo nice) then the whole process breaks down. It is your responsibility to enter the roundabout when it clears so that you and the cars behind you may use the roundabout and then clear the lane. If you think the entrance just down from you has a lot of cars awaiting entrance then look behind you as those cars are waiting too. I mean, do you really think the cars at the entrance next to you deserve to enter the lane more than the people who wait behind you? Is it your decision to make determinations of who enters the roundabout?
We are a nation of laws and not self-rule; when your turn comes to enter the roundabout-do so. When there is traffic coming from your left then sit and wait until the traffic clears. If the traffic to your left has not entered the roundabout then get into the lane and get moving until you get to your exit. If everyone obeys the laws of right of way and shows a little patience this roundabout works so beautifully as to give one’s hope for humanity a huge lift. The alternative is simple; sitting and waiting at one of the other intersections while the train passes by.