Over the next few months, I’m going to try to have some helpful posts that review he rules of the road that may be confusing or even unknown to a large number of cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.
After discussing the facts surrounding each, I will follow up with a post or two that will be more editorial in nature, discussing and demonstrating my experiences. The first item up is traffic circles.
Traffic circles in B.C. are defined as intersections that have a central circular island that divert the flow of traffic, less than 20 m in diameter. They are similar to roundabouts, which are the same thing with the central island 30 m in diameter or larger. Don’t ask me what intersections with central circular islands with diameters between 20 m and 30 m are called. In Vancouver, traffic circles range in size from 4.5 m to 9 m in diameter.
The City of Vancouver uses traffic circles as traffic calming elements in residential neighbourhoods. The intention is to reduce speeds and collisions at intersections while providing some beautification. You can visit the City’s traffic circle site to see their position, and to see how to request one for your neighbourhood.
In Kitsilano, traffic circles are used on many of the bike routes. On the Off-Broadway route through Kits (Burrard to Alma) there are traffic circles at 7th/Cypress, 8th/Vine, 8th/Larch, 8th/Trafalgar, and 8th/Blenheim.
There are only a few basic rules to remember when dealing with a traffic circle:
- Slow down. You don’t have to come to a stop before a traffic circle, but neither is it a chicane.
- Travel through the circle counter-clockwise. This means travel forward and turn to the right side of the island.
- Yield to traffic already in the circle. This means look left first and yield to traffic already there. If you arrive at the intersection at the same time as another vehicle, the vehicle to the right has right-of-way.
ICBC is a bit more verbose in their suggestions for traffic circles:
- Reduce your speed.
- Watch for signs that may help you find your exit.
- Watch for people using the crosswalk, and be ready to stop.
- Yield to traffic already in the roundabout that comes from your immediate left before you enter.
- Enter the roundabout to your right (a counter clockwise direction) when there is a gap in traffic and you feel it is safe to do so.
- Continue until you reach your exit.
- Never come to a full stop in a roundabout unless traffic conditions require it.
- Use your right turn signal to let other road users know where you plan to exit.
- Exit at a slow speed.
- As you exit, watch for people using the crosswalk, and be ready to stop.
- If you miss your exit, keep going around the roundabout until you reach it again.
Traffic circles, particularly those on bike routes in Vancouver, get lots of discussion. Recently there was a good article on openfile.ca, and a local bike commuter wrote an insightful blog post about them.
I too have strong opinions about the use and effectiveness of traffic circles. In a few weeks there will be another post discussing the pros and cons of these on the bike routes.
Last modified: January 14, 2012