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Sunday, 25 September 2011


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Your planners need to learn about the joys of the British round-about. Apparently a couple of cities in the States are adopting them and although strange to begin with, are improving some intersections.

A few roundabouts would solve the problem.

I think that the word you're looking for here is "obfuscatory".

In good old England, it not were I live, but I do visit it sometimes, they solve all these multi intersections with a very efficient solution, the Roundabout.
Once you're on it, you have right of way until you leave it.

You win (or lose). I thought my little/medium town of Lexington, Ky had the corner on bad intersections, but I see now that I was very mistaken.

Lexington's major thoroughfares project out spoke-like from the downtown center towards nearby and not so nearby communities. Some of these communities still exist and some do not. And some have changed names, so the road that leads to, for example Maysville, is still called Limestone in Lexington. Apparently, news of this 100+-year old name change has not yet reached Lexington.

Another street changes names at least five times in a 3-mile stretch. One name change is more of a direction change, however. The road of the same name turns 90 degrees to the right at a "T" intersection. The road going straight is the start of a new name or new road, depending on your perspective.

Thanks for showing me a worse place to drive.

Top marks for the exam question Mike.


Thanks, this post really entertained!

It reminded me of when I was learning to drive about 16 years ago. There was one suburb that driving instructors would always take learners to, to test their problem-solving skills...

Not sure if this link will work or not. If it doesn't, go to Google Maps and search for "Forrest, ACT, Australia" and have a look along Mugga Way...

View Larger Map

Those five-ways are screaming to be round-a-bouts...looks like there's plenty of room to do it too.

Just to point out that you don't have an absolute monopoly on confusing junctions I give you Swindons 'Magic Roundabout'. I know people who have driven miles out of their way to avoid this: http://www.swindonweb.com/index.asp?m=8&s=115&ss=289

Roundabout, 'nuff said.

As a point of local pride, I'm required to explain how St. Paul is worse. I'm not actually sure that it is; but it does have the very amusing intersection of 7th Street and 8th Street, which I've always liked.

I live in Charleston SC, where we often tell tourists, "you cant get there from here" because of the one-way streets.

Ever been to Salt Lake City? Most of the streets are laid out to cardinal compass points and are named (numbered, actually) from the zero point at the Temple. You mostly don't need a map, which really appealed to the geek in me.

I'm sure we'll hear from Boston, the prototype spaghetti layout, where GPS goes to die.

What you need are roundabouts

A few roundabouts would solve some of that.

Hee, hee, hee...the only place I've been as bad was Madison Wisconsin, I once got lost and asked an old-timer walking down the block where a street was. He said: "...buddy, I've lived here all my life and never heard of that street...", I kept driving and half a block later, there it was!

Mike is right. Waukesha's layout is the most bizarre. I have lived in an old town in New England, a new city in the Southeast, a Midwestern grid city and in Paris. Streetwise Waukesha is most like Paris but the the driving here has a much more casual feel. Also, as far as I know, Waukesha is the only place in the world with that name.

Mike, if I can find it again, we should get together for lunch sometime at the Rochester Deli.

John in Waukesha

All Waukesha needs to do is replace the messy intersections with good old British-style roundabouts. Remove all the stop signs and create nice islands full of flowers. Baron Haussmann who created the wonder that is Place de L'Etoile would know what to do. Of course, he was French, that might be a tough sell in southern Wisconsin.

I bet your GPS is fried by now too? I can just hear the woman in the box now, "Recalculating...., Recalculating...."

If this isn't an argument for public transportation, I don't know what is.

Mike, I moved to Colorado from Waukesha April, 2005.

I remember the one-way streets in the 80's. More than once, I parked and walked to my destination because the one-way streets seemed to block me from getting to where I wanted to go.


A local Radio Station here in Victoria used to run a warning to tourists to note the name of the road they were on, as it was likely to change at any moment. I also like the fact there is a cedar road, cedar hill road, cedar hill cross road (ok, I will give you that one) and cedar avenue, all within a small area. We do have 5 way streets and streets that change direction in weird ways, but I will admit Waukesha has us there.
Our city planners though seem to loath the horseless carriage. The trend is to take a busy 3 or 4 lane road and put a bike lane and a centre grass and flower divider to "encourage alternative transport". Of course there is no alternative transport. A trip that may take me 15 minutes by car is well over an hour by bus.

What you need is roundabouts. Here's a couple of examples of Britains version of Waukesha, known as Swindon. Put these coordinates into Google maps.


Looks to me like any ordinary streetplan of a European town. Got lost in Düsseldorf the other day as well (twice). Well an Autobahn intersection did it for me. Had to get into the left lane to go right. I got in the right lane and then was forced to go left, make a U-turn, across the Rhine back into Oberkassel and then with a u-turn along the Rhine back to Dusseldorf Bilk. Then a hard right and their was the Jahnstrasse and the Arteversum galery with the famous Mitch Epstein powerplant and gasworks photos in it. Well worth the trouble. But things got worse, when I went for a stroll to the famous harbour district and shot some architecture I got lost again now on foot. But when I saw the Düsselstrasse I felt at home staight away. Took a picture as well. So getting lost, not always a bad thing.

Greetings, Ed

"Improve this intersection, without using explosives. 1 hour."

I guess that rules out aerial bombardment.

On the other hand, 10,000 doodlebugs didn't improve London traffic planning much either.

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown Waukesha."

Ahh America has somewhere with some character. Looks fine to me, but then us brits are used to road systems like that. The roads need to be much narrower & have less light for them to be challenging. You should see Cusco in Peru too, roads so narrow that only anything smaller than a bike can pass.
Good sunday off topic feature.

This makes even Boston's worst areas look good. At the "end" of Route 128 in Boston, which is also Interstate 95, you have to go North on Interstate 93 to go South and go South on Interstate 93 to go North. Interstate 95 only really goes West and South. Even worse, natives of the area tell you to go to the end of Route 128 but forget that the signs changed in 1997, making the "end" of Route 128 occur much sooner than it used to. Can't tell you how many times I've gone in the direction of Rhode Island, when I meant to head closer to Boston as a result.

Also, in Boston proper, it is usually impossible to "go around the block" as you would in a rationally planned city. If you miss a turn and try to go around the block, you will follow some earlier wayward cowpath that takes you in a totally new direction.

Maybe your five-way was designed by former Bostonians?

with much empathy,

Mike -

If I ever do come visit, I'll feel right at home. Ever tried driving around Cambridge or Somerville, Massachusetts? "Wackiness" like this abounds. With the exception of the one line of sanity that is Mass. Ave., it's a complete rat's nest. Add to that that the streets are about eight inches wide and narrow to about four inches with snow in winter. Oh, and that, from September to June, the vast majority of drivers trying to navigate these streets are college students from out of town who are utterly baffled by the sudden and nonsensical changes in traffic flow. (Who can blame them?) Boston and environs were, as I'm sure you know, designed by cows. And Boston, with its middle-of-nowhere rotaries and sudden merges and unregulated multistreet intersections, isn't any better than Cambridge or Somerville - except most of those stuck in where-do-I-go-now limbo are tourists, not students.

One tiny example: A friend lives on a residential street in Somerville that crosses - well, another ordinary street. North of the intersection, my friend's street is one way going north. South of the intersection, the same strip of asphalt is one way going the other way. There's a reason New Englanders are fond of saying "Can't get there from here."

So now I know why you went for the Benz over the GTI: You wanted that extra heft around you, just in case...

That does look like a mess! However, I think i would still prefer it to the completely straight grid system that most american cities seem to follow. I like twisty roads that I can properly lose myself in, but perhaps this is because I prefer walking around cities to driving around them.

p.s. When are we going to stop designing cities for cars, and start designing them for people?

Imagining that these images were of UK towns, there would be a planners overlay of (ineffective) 'traffic calming measures', a pox of mini-roundabouts and even full blown roundabouts, inappropriate street furniture and railings for pedestrian safety and 'environmental enhancement' (that adds 400 yards to the previous walking distance)and a smorgasbord of roadsigns directing you several compass points away from the direction you really would like to go. Implementing them would require a County Councils annual highways budget, 4 years of planning meetings and sidelined public opinion and a genuine need for improvement, over and above road safety, in the form of a proposed new Tesco store. Bah !

Hi Mike,

Yep, looks like any intersection in the UK, the difference is that we have mini-roundabouts, a white circle painted on the road, where you give way to traffic approaching from the right (we drive on the left), If all approaches have an arrival at the same time the largest or most battered assumes right of way.
Below is my local example (if the embed doesn't work there is a link below [from Google]).

View Larger Map


Sometimes our planners go a bit OTT and we get “magic roundabouts”, a ring of mini-roundabouts around a larger central roundabout. The best example is in this link below;
which shows 2 alternative ways of negotiating it.
After the Great Fire of London in 1666 they were going to rebuild on a grid pattern but it didn't happen.

Pre-empting tomorrows post on Flickr the most popular cameras are;
1.Apple iphone4.
2.Nikon D90
3.Canon EOS 5D mk II
which shows a nice spread of types.

And finally, I came across this photographer originally from Wisconsin and thought this photo was just beautiful;
and check out his North Korean Mass Games photos.

all the best phil

Mike, My first impulse is to say, Get a Life. But then, doesn't all this weirdness mean there are lots of interesting buildings, a la the Flatiron Building?

Hi Mike

If we can do it in Europe, you can manage in Waukesha (which I have heard of because my engineering company used to deal with castings of Waukesha 88, a cussed, but useful, metal with a melting range of about 300-1300C which any metallurgist will tell you is near impossible - continues the theme Waukesha=difficult).

Anyhow - google a map of Sheffield, England, where I live and add to that the fact it's all on steep hills, with 5 rivers, and feel better.

Then you mention Washington DC - going to a conference in DC, I was advised to take the Washington Flyer limo, but on no account the taxis or bus -- after 3+ hours (yes)of the limo circling the beltway, a Norwegian woman and myself, neither of whom had been to DC before, finally directed the driver to our Holiday Inn (where I was immediately accosted at the bar by two ladies wanting to sell their bodies to me because they had to pay their exam fees for a law school qualification, then by a totally drunk police basketball team). In case you ask, the driver wouldn't phone back to base after the first hour of circling, because he thought he'd be fired -I think he was last seen heading in the limo for your 5-way in Waukesha. Yes I have been to your country many times and had good times, but what a start to that trip (after a hassle-free 5 hour Atlantic crossing).

Well you did say open mike

Best regards


I live in Utah, which is probably the most miserable state in the Union. But, it has something called the grid system that was set up by the Mormon pioneers in the 1800s. Basically, most cities are laid out like the game Battleship, in squares. Streets don't have names, they have numbers that tell you which direction you're going and how far you are from the city center. For example, if you live on the corner of 1300 S and 500 W, you live 13 blocks south and five blocks west of the city center. There are almost no one way streets, dead ends are rare, and all intersections are precisely perpendicular. Too bad all Utahns are crap drivers.

I'm glad some people from Boston have chimed in! My mother and stepfather live in Cambridge, a few blocks from Somerville....


The reply comments thus far are very intuitive.

However routings are part of the history
of the specific geographic area. In the
pre-automobile days (before your city
became an autombile manufacturing centre)
the streets were good. These days there are numerous examples of where such layouts are not good. BTW does Wisconsin allow right turns on a facing red light?

If the streets were in a logical pattern,
you'd get bored driving.

Open Mike is a logical progression from the other existence of T.O.P.!

I have to wonder at one or two of the ideas that have been put into practice in the US and whether the people responsible for them ever stopped to think how they'd work, or for that matter whether they've ever been behind the wheel of a vehicle.

I'm thinking particularly of those freeway on and off ramp arrangements which Roanoke VA has a few of, where traffic entering the freeway from a sharp on ramp curve and speeding up has to cross paths with traffic exiting the freeway to an equally sharply curving off-ramp and slowing down. It seems designed specifically to *cause* collisions, if you ask me.

This is made especially vexing because of people who disregard the "through traffic use left two lanes" sign then get all tangled up in the mess of criss-crossing vehicles at the junction, making an already miserable situation worse.

Then there are the folks who come to a dead stop, apparently believing that "yield" has the same meaning as "stop". This is great fun when you're trying to merge into 60mph traffic from a standing start with about 3 car lengths to do it, and people trying to join the off ramp coming in around or behind you as they slow from freeway speeds.

I'd like to meet whoever designed that style of junction and have a few words with them.

The Magic Roundabout at Hemel Hempstead is a worthy winner, and appropriate to TOP because the Kodak building is right next to it, though it has now been converted into flats.

I haven't been there in years but at the time I followed the advice I was given to go round anticlockwise, and sailed through. (You go clockwise on roundabouts here)

You can treat the Magic Roundabout as a road with lots of mini roundabouts on it, where the road just happens to be in a circle.

Thanks Mike, I've been searching all year for a reason to drop 'vijfsprong' into the conversation.

Nothing of what you've described matches the frustration (and other reactions not nice to mention in public) here in California when you have to decide which lane to get in to turn on to a freeway when in a city other than your own.

Need to turn left? Get in the left lane, of course.

Not always so. Sometimes, the right lane enters the freeway going left by doing a U-turn underneath the road/bridge.

Nothing wrong with that except that often you don't know until a block or two before the freeway entrance, and woe unto thee if you are in the wrong lane because it's impossible to merge over 2 or 3 lanes in the space of 1 block, unless you are a Japanese cab driver, whose expertise in this game I've admired on more than one occasion!



"I've been searching all year for a reason to drop 'vijfsprong' into the conversation."

I don't know what that means....


Mike - As an ex-resident of DC, you might be familiar with Seven Corners (http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&client=dell-usuk&channel=us&tab=wl), the intersection of Route 50, Route 7, Wilson Blvd, Sleepy Hollow, and a mess of "service drives". It's only saving grace is that Route 50 goes under several of the other roads. The downside of that, of course, is there both entrance and exit lanes that, combined with the crossovers to get to the upper roads and accompanying traffic signals almost guarantee you'll end up on a road different than you'd planned or want. Even for those of us who live here, but don't use that intersection much. The easiest road to use is Route 50 because you don't have to leave it to go either east or west. The other roads are not as simple.

Naaah. Wokky-shaw's no problem. It is a bit more weird than Milwaukee, given the latter's Cartesian grid on which nobody could get lost. But it's just average compared to the typical, 17th century east coast downtown.

I learned how to drive in Boston. In a full-size car. With a stickshift, 3-on-the-column. Nothing scares me.

Except perhaps driving in Salem. Not the witches, just bitty teensy streets designed for horse traffic.

Looks like a very quiet kind of paradise to me.Here's how the local 5 way looks on a Sunday afternoon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDSMnsNN9vM

The sad thing about that last photo is the ratio of road to usable land. Seems to be mostly road. they should close some of that road, making it build-uponable, and that could solve some confusion at the same time.

I was bothering my wife by laughing so much, so I explained that I was reading an article about traffic patterns and urban planning.

That made sense to her.

Now I want to visit Waukesha, but I know that I'll never remember how to pronounce it.

Mike, the magic roundabout in your link is in Swindon, not Hemel Hempstead (there may be one there as well, but the one you show is in Swindon).

Despite being able to negotiate the Swindon roundabout with ease (go around ant-clockwise, legally), I was once completely baffled while trying to drive to the rental car return area at Boston Airport. There was something called "the big dig" going on. I swear I drove through the Callahan tunnel several times in both directions before getting to the right place. My wife and I were not speaking to each other at the end, one child was crying and the other had fallen asleep, only to wake up crying as we finally parked up.

For "vijfsprong", Google is your friend Mike :


You need to contact FEMA. Some disasters take many years to occur. And the answer is: F. Evacuate people into FEMA housing outside of town. Then use explosives and bulldozers on town. Then re-build town with A-Z and 1st-50th streets. Of course this will probably throw everyone off in the next town.

Dear Mike,
This is the first time that I feel really insulted. How could you say that there are probably European cities that are worse. I've traveled all over Europe, but I've never seen anything even close to WakooWakoo, or whatever the name is where you live. Even in Africa (from here to the south) this is not seen.
I'm afraid you have to live with it; it's the worst place on earth. Move, while you can! Save your life! Keep with us!

You cheeseheads are so *obvious* in your traffic problems. For true demonic subtlety, you have to come to Minnesota, and try to find an address in St. Paul.

See, when they set the house addresses up, it was far too complicated to have, say, a 400 block, with all the numbers in the 400s, and then a 500 block, with all the numbers in the 500s. So what they did is, they started numbering sequentially with the first existing lot on any given street, and then simply went down the street assigning the next number to the next lot. So if you're at 401, say, and are looking for 495, well, 495 could be one block away, or ten blocks away, depending on how many lots there are. On parallel streets, a 400 number on one may be a 600 number on the next, because there were more lots on the latter. And, of course, the starting points have nothing to do with each other.

Just for laughs, streets sometimes end, only to restart several blocks away, then end again, and then restart, several blocks away, and because the addresses are assigned on this number-as-you-go basis, there's *no way to tell* where the address you're looking for actually is.

Of course, your biggest problem isn't that your dinner guests can't find your place. It's that the fire department can't find it.


Now imagine a Waukesha that's 10 times bigger. Welcome to Boston.

I actually have few problems here. But then again, I was born in... Hemel Hempstead. ;-)

Reminds me of an intersection near the Museum District in Fort Worth - five two way roads converging, a blind right turn if you're so inclined from at least one of them. Somehow, I've never seen a wreck. (did I mention there are at least five bars within a mile?)


Dear Mike,

Roundabouts reminded me of the


in my personal experience.

Bayla and I are driving back from a vacation in Provincetown. Coming off some bridge or another we encounter a roundabout that feeds into the three or four highways that branch off from there. About 120 degrees ahead of us on the 'bout is an SUV occupied by your typical American nuclear family. Or else a small, apocalyptic cult hell-bent on suicide. Either's possible.


The driver/husband/chauffeur/insane-cult-leader misses the highway branch he wanted. So he slows down.

And he stops.

And he starts backing UP!

Traffic's whizzing past him at 30+ MPH, all the drivers honking and gesturing madly. The ICL takes no notice, continues to back up until he regains his exit and then heads down the highway (happily, a different one than the one we'd be taking).

I am thinking,

1) "What part of one-way, non-stop road didn't you understand?"


2) "How much school did you have to skip to manage to avoid being introduced to the concept of a CIRCLE? You know, that funny thing that doesn't have a beginning or end and that you can keep going around and around on?!"

I challenge TOP's 30,000 readers to come up with a PERSONAL encounter with a more clueless driver than that. C'mon, trump this one. (YouTube videos and second-hand stories are disqualified.)

pax / Ctein

OK, I see that others have chimed in about Boston/Cambridge. I'll add my favorite "intersection" in Cambridge. It's at 42°23'14.60"N and 71° 8'31.21"W. It's a double rotary connected by a short road. That in itself is not so bad. However, it's the major commuting route into Cambridge and Boston from the northwest. Also, the "rules of the road" - meaning right-of-way, de facto changes depending on the time of day. For example, outbound traffic has precedence in the mornings at the east-most rotary, but in-bound traffic has precedence at the west-most. It reverses in the evening. This is against state law, of course, which states that if you're on the rotary you have right-of-way. In this case, though, you just have to know. There are many intersections like this in the area. My favorite story along these lines is that a cousin of mine got rear-ended (got hit in the rear by another car) when he stopped at a STOP sign on a small side street in Cambridge. The other driver jumps out of his car and shouts to him, "NOBODY STOPS at that STOP sign!". Again, you just have to know. Good luck driving around here...

"I'm actually kind of shocked at how clean and sensible this next Waukesha intersection looks from the air." That is the reason why they have doctor planner. You cannot force all planner to live with their products and hence they draw and design to deal with the issue in their computer. And you lived in it.

BTW, roundabout is not a solution. Lived in Hong Kong after so many decades, no one knew how to drive in and out of roundabouts. You can see someone suddenly stopped in the roundabout so that a car can get in front of him. Yes, polite but not really the way. Or, two cars stopped in the roundabout patiently waiting for the other go in (or try to crash each other).

Minor problem compared with yours.

The magic roundabout...Yikes! And they're on the "wrong"side of the road! :-)

I think the traffic engineers from Waukesha moved to Sacramento, CA in the early 70's and wrecked havoc there for awhile. They also managed to change the names of streets that go straight and retain names for streets that meander in any given direction. These nomadic planners apparently saw that their work in Waukesha was not finished and decided to move back and continue with a plan of endless progression. Sacramento is now asleep at the wheel, and bankrupt along with the rest of California, with no solution to traffic Armageddon in sight. My solution was to move to Oregon where everyone is encouraged to ride a bicycle and wear Birkenstock sandals. Peace, my brother.

You poor guys, having to drive on the wrong side of the road as well!

Another lazy Aussie from Perth

Seven Corners in NVa and Ward Circle near American University (which Mike refers to) are favorites. Dupont Circle, also in NW DC, is a circle within a circle - really.

Close to home is what I believe is called a Texas Cross - a sort of inside out cloverleaf where you take turns crossing diagonally over an Interstate. It works, but is very unnerving the first time.

Hey Mike,

my father grew up in Waukesha. In fact you two are around the same age I think - Ed Joehnk. Ring any bells? There were 5 kids in the family so I just thought their might be a slight chance. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and am now living (and photographing) in Stuttgart Germany, so we dont get much of a chance to visit the family back in Wisconsin. I always love going back though - such a different world that San Francisco or Germany.
Knowing that you are a Wisconsinite makes me want to read TOP that much more :)

ps- you are more than welcome to post more Green Bay Packer news.


When I lived in Milwaukee we referred to it as "You Can't get from There to Here Waukesha."

look at this turbo roundabout
they work pretty well, when people will get used to them...

Mike, 'vijfsprong', the wordt that struan mentioned, is the (or should I say: 'a') Dutch word for five-way junction.

Have a look at this one in Holland:
which is quite close to my home. Looks like a perfect roundabout (also from street level), but it is not. It's just a normal crossing which happens to have a circular center, with priority for traffic on the north-south road. There is an incredible amount of near-accidents on this junction, but a surprisingly low number of actual crashes.

In fact this 'roundacrossing' is a rare remnant of the rather peculiar type of roundabouts that we had in Holland until about 20 years ago. On the original Dutch roundabouts you had to give way to cars entering the circle - as opposed to giving way to cars on the roundabout before you enter it. No wonder that on busy days those roundabouts were completely blocked up... Then they decided that any new roundabout should have the same rules that apply anywhere else in Europe (and the world I guess) so for years you had to take great care when driving up to a roudabout: is it an old one or a new one?

All of this talk of roundabouts reminds me of what I call the Texas Roundabout. In Dallas and Houston many of the Interstate exits are between the major cross roads. You exit the highway, drive maybe a mile on the frontage road to the cross road, and then choose far left lane to U-turn under or over the Interstate to go back on the frontage road on the other side, next two left lanes to turn left onto the cross road, the two thru-lanes are next to go straight, and or a right-turn lane or two at the far right. It's simply a brilliant layout which easily moves heavy traffic but can only be used in Texas because of the vast amount of land required at intersections.

If you drive the loop of left u-turn lanes at two cross roads you have a roundabout which can be two to four miles across the long direction.

I'm sure GPS programmers have had a part in reducing traffic to a swirling circling u-turning mess too. I hate using a GPS for directions (I prefer to study a map first, then go by memory and sense of direction, even on 700+ mile road trip days), but I used one in Chicago recently. At several five way or more, or double-intersections, I was told "turn right" and left to pick between several qualifying turns. I never picked correctly, and with all the one-way streets, the diversions were catastrophic.

I had no idea I was so close to such skullduggery! I was in Waukesha for work in May (visiting Waukesha Electric) and my route to the factory was as straight forward as I've seen. The key: I was arriving from the SW via I-43. Had I only traveled a little further north and east I might be writing this from my car where I would have been forced to live, stealing WiFi (and discarded muffin bits) from nearby coffee shops...

My mother in law lives up the road from the magic roundabout in Hemel Hempstead. Despite appearances from the air in use it's actually very simple to use and quite effective.

The advice of treating it as lots of round abouts is how I deal with it and go both ways round, depending what exit I want to use.

Many years ago my wife and I spent a few days at a small hotel in Paris with a balcony view of a five way intersection. We took to watching the afternoon rush hour with a glass of wine for entertainment. Every day, someone eventually got out of their car to direct traffic, otherwise they would all just sit there honking their horns.

I personally think roundabouts are a great idea, but they put a few in here a couple years ago, and most people still haven't figured out how to navigate them. Maybe in another ten years...

Road designers should often face two options. Either a) sit in the fires of hell for all eternity, or b) spend that same eternity trying to cross some of the things they have created.
Expect most would choose hell...

Roundabouts. Having left Europe a few years ago that's maybe the thing I'm missing the most here in Canada. On the other hand I'm relieved that they don't use the priority to the right.

This reminds me of a situation near my mother's house. Her property is right at the junction of two semi-rural but well traveled roads. It's just a simple T-intersection with one stop sign, but broad curves and horse fences make for rather poor visibility from the intersecting road. There's a painted line where you're supposed to stop, but if you actually stop there you can't possibly see the oncoming traffic.

Locals know that you just ignore the stop line. And, yes, it seems like a minor thing, but it's also something that's very easily fixed. When the road was last re-paved, my mom tried to persuade the county to move the line up a few feet. Nope. Can't do that, they said. There are regulations about where that line needs to be. She pointed out that the reason for the regulations was traffic safety, and that this didn't seem very safe. Sorry, ma'am. We've got rules. Can't be making those sorts of momentous line- painting decisions on our own, you know. Someone might measure it and sue us.

So it remains the same. And a set of roads that's changed dozens of times over the decades is now frozen in a broken configuration because fixing it is really just too much trouble.

I live in Britain...this is all normal stuff to we Brits. We even have roads with bends and corners, not just intersections!

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the Armdale Rotary in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
I spent a happy 18 months living there in the late 90's. The natives talked with dread about the "Rotary" but it held no fear for me. Before I moved to Halifax I lived in central London and drove regularly round Hyde Park Corner in my Alfa GTV6. However when I arrived at the Rotary I was confronted with a traffic signal showing red with green arrow. I looked around for a clue - what do I do next. The drivers behind me waited patiently the driver to my left on the rotary waited patiently (they are very polite and patient driver in Halifax) Then I horns started to sound then I twigged you let one car go - then go - then at the next entrance you let one car on - Bizarre and counter intuitive - I never got the hang of going through a red light.
It is probably the only rotary to have inspired a Haiku




Here's a similar incident from Milton Keynes, England. A town full of roundabouts and also full of drivers who don't know how to negotiate them.

I'm travelling North on the bike and as I exit a roundabout I see a car stopped in the left hand lane in front of me, and not too near the kerb, either. If I had been in the car I might have hit it, but instead I swerve and stop beside the front passenger window. It's an elderly couple.
"Can you tell us the way to....?" (some part or other, I wasn't really listening)
"You can't stop here, you'll cause an accident!" I reply.
"But we...."
"You've got to move!" and I ride off before there's an accident that I could get hurt in. As I ride away I glance into my mirror to see them reverse back on to the roundabout.

Roger B.

Dublin's infamous red Cow Roundabout. Not the best way to handle an intersection of two freeways.

Mike, when you lived in Forest Park did you ever drive south on Harlem Avenue about 2.5 miles and turn into the town of Riverside? If you did, you would probably still be there. The secret of getting out is looking for the streets with a dashed yellow stripe down the center. These are the only streets that exit the town and it's not easy finding these streets once you turn off one. The city planner who layed out this town was later hired to design the new capitol of Australia, Canberra.

I was following, right up until I realised you were driving on the right. Damn.

Anyway, if your 5 way intersection doesn't have multiple tram lines running through the middle (entering and exiting from 4 different roads) then it's not trying.

There is a similar five road junction near me. It recently had traffic lights installed although it worked o.k. with no apparent problems for many years.

Well, there used to be an interurban streetcar line running through Waukesha. Came in from the east, down Lincoln Ave, through the intersection with the white-striped No Man's Land. (Lincoln used to go through that little parking lot there). There it hooked up with Broadway, running roughly northwest on the road in the bottom picture, through the downtown 5-points, then curving around to Madison, then another curve onto what is now Delafield, then out towards Pewaukee. The line crossed two railroads on its way through town.

Having lived in Waukesha for a while, I don't think roundabouts would work in most of the spots. Not enough room, be running into building and such. The Fracaro's 5-points is the route of USH 18, trying to get semis around a roundabout there is not something I would like to think about. Too bad they didn't build the bridge over the river there high enough to go over the tracks as well, I guess park access was more important.

Many other fun points about driving through Waukesha. I learned to drive there, so not much fazes me anymore.

I love your site. This piece is true genius. Attending in detail to the local. And you can write. And you edit thoroughly. I take my hat off, dip my viewfinder etc. Thanks. This made my day.

When I found this site, I thought of your article:


Well, I am suprised nobody mentioned our beloved "Place de l'Etoile" in Paris.

You have not been to Paris if you have not at least once drove through it!


One piece of advice though: KNOW where you want to go, otherwise, you'll just spin for hours...

Do my eyes deceive me, or is there one+ street named "East North Street" in the mix?

This had my laughing aloud, thanks for making my morning.

Sure enough. Also, "East Avenue" and "West Avenue," both of which run north-south, are about two blocks from each other. I live right off N. East Avenue.


Thought I'd revisit this post after reading some of the comments about street naming.

Ever been to Costa Rica? When I visited a couple of years ago there were no street names in town for the most part (though I do notice on Google Maps that there are now street names listed in some areas), you typically got directions in meters east/west/north/south of some landmark, such as a post office, police station, a bus shelter or the town square.

Except sometimes the well-known landmark doesn't exist any more and when someone says 100 meters, they really mean "from one junction to the next", which may not be 100 *actual* meters.

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