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O Great Purveyor of Pavement Paradigms, Please explain how an otherwise sane city like Conway can embrace the most convoluted, confounded, vehicular control devices known as the Dave Ward Drive traffic circles. The signs directing the motorist around and through these abominations appear to have been designed by Pablo Picasso. Thankfully Mother Teresa never had to drive her car through them, for surely she would have eventually emerged, cussing a blue streak and losing her sainthood. -- Willy

Dear Willy: It's never a good idea for a business to alienate its customers -- just ask the NFL. Or for a city to alienate its citizens.

But we are compelled to say, politely, that you are wrong. Traffic circles are beautiful things. They are straightforward and sensical. They're cheap to maintain, too, unlike those expensive and breakable traffic signals.

They keep traffic moving, in the process reducing delays and relieving congestion. Since no one is required to stop, but instead to yield, an intersection can handle more traffic in less time than a traditional signaled intersection.

Traffic circles do take some getting used to, especially for drivers accustomed to traffic signals that drag on and on, clogging up traffic and making drivers crazy enough to run red lights.

Yeah, that's what psychologists call an insight. It's impossible to run a red light that's not there.

Let's review the fundamentals.

When entering a traffic circle, a driver should wait for a gap in traffic, yielding when necessary. A driver should stay in his lane, watch for pedestrians, and use his turn signal when exiting.

Go slow, but don't stop. Miss your exit? Go around again.

Pick a lane and stay there. That's easy when a traffic circle has, duh, only one lane. For traffic circles with two lanes, watch the signage. Usually, drivers turning left should get in the left lane, drivers going right should get in the right lane, and drivers going straight can do that from either.

Be patient. A traffic circle may seem weird -- we admit to mass hysteria at first -- but a few times driving through should clarify the experience.

Now, about safety.

A review of studies compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety supports the idea that roundabouts are safer than traditional intersections, especially single-lane roundabouts. In fact, a 2014 study of 24 traffic circles by the Minnesota Department of Transportation showed an 80 percent reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes in that state.

Think about crashes at traditional intersections, especially right-angle crashes. Traffic engineers know those crashes are deadly. Right-angle crashes are unlikely in a traffic circle.

Our personally nearest traditional intersection with a red light gives us the willies. We play a sad game -- look how many drivers breezed through the yellows and the reds. Including honkin' SUVs, big ol' pickups and an occasional 18-wheeler. And there we are, in our dinky little car.

It's a great spot for a traffic circle. We hope.

Metro on 07/21/2018

Print Headline: Circles for traffic wise inventions

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  • TuckerMax
    July 21, 2018 at 6 a.m.

    You have to admit, however, that the traffic circle east of Dave Ward and I-40 is really confusing because the lane markings cause a double and triple take. That one is NOT a conventional traffic circle. It is unlike all the others. The others in Conway are great, even the intersections with four lane streets.

  • Murphy01
    July 21, 2018 at 7:57 a.m.

    I'll never understand why people get so worked up over traffic circles.

  • WhododueDiligence
    July 21, 2018 at 9:05 a.m.

    Needing to make a left turn, the first time I experienced a traffic circle I thought what the ... wheeeeeee, that was different. But know I love 'em for those reasons Mahatma took us through.

    July 21, 2018 at 9:48 a.m.

    The circle by the LR Zoo is a godsend.

  • NoUserName
    July 21, 2018 at 10:32 a.m.

    Fair Park circle at the zoo is a godsend? The thing was designed by an idiot. It's too small to function properly. Traffic circles work when designed well. LR doesn't seem to know how to do that.

  • WhododueDiligence
    July 21, 2018 at 11 a.m.

    Most drivers stay in their proper lane while making left or right turns at ordinary intersections with traffic lights, because changing lanes during a turn is hazardous and illegal. However, as Mahatma points out, staying in your lane is more complex in a two-lane traffic circle. In a two-lane traffic circle, lanes do cross each other and in heavy traffic that can get a bit confusing, especially if drivers don't believe in using their signal lights.
    Let's say the intersection of north/south Hwy 1 and east/west Hwy 2 is a two-lane traffic circle and both highways have 4 lanes--2 in each direction. From all 4 directions, all drivers making left turns cross the right lane of the traffic circle twice assuming they all stay in their proper left lanes while making their left turns. Left-turning drivers cross the right lane both entering and exiting the 2-lane traffic circle. Left-turning drivers have to yield to both lanes as they enter. As they exit the traffic circle, drivers in the right lane have to yield to them. From the left-turning drivers' perspective, they stayed in their left lane. Which they did. From the perspective of right-lane drivers passing straight through on their right-lane north, south, east or west direction, the left-turning drivers crossed the right lane twice. And that they did, too.

  • WhododueDiligence
    July 21, 2018 at 11:11 a.m.

    (The Conway traffic circles in question might be more complex than a typical two-lane traffic circle. I haven't experienced the Dave Ward Drive merry-go-round.)

    July 21, 2018 at 12:21 p.m.

    How is it too small? I've never had any difficulty maneuvering our bigass Buick Lucerne through the circle.

  • WhododueDiligence
    July 21, 2018 at 12:27 p.m.

    My description of left turns applies only to all left-turning drivers who enter the circle from the left lane of the highways and remain in their left lane. Left-turning drivers who enter the circle from the right lane of the highways and remain in their lane don't have any lane crossings but should be prepared to yield to drivers in the left lane of the circle at the two exits prior to their exit.

  • Popsmith
    July 21, 2018 at 12:48 p.m.

    Oh, come on! Even the French can figure out traffic circles.