As a child learning to cross a street, I learned the following. I can still hear my father’s voice in my head.
“First you look left to make sure no cars are coming, then you look right, then left again. Go!”
Well, when it comes to driving a traffic circle, you can throw all of that out the window.
On a recent drive into Nederland during the late afternoon, I’ve become amused by the “shenanigans” I’ve seen as people try to navigate Nederland’s one and only traffic circle. It becomes particularly fascinating when the Eldora skiers head down the hill at the same time, Nederland commuters are coming up the hill.
So in an effort to keep traffic flowing and tempers from raging, here are some observations and helpful tips:
One Way Driving. In the circle, everyone should drive the same way – counter clockwise. I say “should” because I was waiting to enter the circle one day and a person went clock-wise as if they were at an intersection. On this particular day, they avoided disaster because there was very little traffic. But if you don’t want to hit someone head-on, please adhere to this rule. You enter the circle and go right. Because of this, no turn signal is necessary. And you only need look left before entering the circle.
One Lane Only. The Nederland Circle is not like the Arc de Triomphe roundabout in Paris. It is not built to accommodate multiple lanes or passing lanes. My friend John told me recently: “I was in the roundabout a few summer ago when I looked to my left and there was some guy passing me, I don’t know how he found the room to squeeze by. That’s not how it’s supposed to work!”
Speaking of, my scariest moment of international driving occurred in a circle in Sao Paulo, Brazil. While visiting my boyfriend many years ago, he got sick on a road trip and asked me to drive. I have never been so terrified in my life. The circle was multiple lanes and everyone was driving a million miles an hour. Basically, my tactic for surviving was “do the opposite of what your basic instincts are telling you.” As I neared the circle, everything in my body said “Slow Down!”. But to do so would have meant getting smeared by a city bus. So instead, I gritted my teeth and put the pedal to the metal and plunged into the circle and sped off onto a nearby street. Whew!
Pause, but not too long! During busy weekends at Eldora, or fall color weekends in fall, all roads entering the circle can be jammed with traffic. While it’s best not to take the above tactic unless no one else is in the circle, it is possible to be too timid entering the circle. Remember, only look left! And keep an eye on cars exiting the circle. When you see small break, step on it. If you’re waiting for the entire circle to be clear of cars, there will be a lot of unhappy Nederland commuters behind you honking their horns. On fall color weekends, I’ve seen traffic backed up to Hurricane Hill on Highway 119, and traffic backed up past Caribou Road on Highway 72. Seize the moment!
Keep your speed up and don’t stop. One day I drove behind an unsuspecting tourist from Missouri. They actually stopped in the circle to let someone enter. Bad idea. The idea of a circle is to keep things moving. Now, if you are forced to stop because of traffic, that is one thing. But this is not an intersection with a 4-way stop signs. If you stop in the circle, you run the risk of causing an accident — keep it moving!
As I was talking to my friend, John, I made the audacious suggestion that Nederland should put in a second circle at the intersection of the B&F Market turnoff and Ace Hardware turnoff. Eegads!
So you better get your circular driving (and thinking) down straight because you might have double the fun coming in your future!