Traffic is going in circles. Armed with mounting data showing that roundabouts are safer, cheaper to maintain and friendlier to the environment, transportation experts around the country are persuading communities to replace traditional intersections with them.
Appearances notwithstanding, roundabouts, such as the one in Mt. Rainier, Md., are not the same thing as rotaries or traffic circles, experts say.
There’s just one problem: Americans don’t know how to navigate them.
“There’s a lot of what I call irrational opposition,” said Eugene R. Russell Sr., a civil engineering professor at Kansas State University and chairman of a national task force on roundabouts, sounding mildly exasperated in a telephone interview. “People don’t understand. They just don’t understand roundabouts.”