Roundabout has motorists going in circles
West Glenwoods new roundabout has gone Hollywood fast times, bright lights and one-liners.Youre going the wrong way isnt just a line heard in the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Rumor has it a few confused motorists have done just that, and more.And some drivers who have been stuck in the inside lane of the two-lane intersection are feeling a bit like Chevy Chase in European Vacation.Hey, look kids, theres Kum and Go, and theres Dairy Queen.I think the key is to get motorists to think of roundabouts as a traditional intersection with curves, said Nancy Shanks, Western Slope regional public relations manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation. You still have to yield to oncoming traffic before you can turn right; you still have to be in that left lane to turn left. The only difference is you dont have to wait for a light.During the roundabouts construction phase, one driver even went straight, instead of following the intersections circular shape, said Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson.The first thing people should know is that they are round, Wilson said. During construction, we had someone kind of drive right through the middle of it, and up and over into a big pile of dirt.For drivers who have never seen nor driven on a roundabout, the premise is basic. According to the city of Aspens Web site, a roundabout is a roadway intersection with one-way circulation around a central island.Like making moist cupcakes in an Easy Bake Oven, simplicity is not always so universal.Ive heard a couple of vehicles have turned off to the left as they turned into the roundabout. You have to deliberately go the wrong way, Glenwood Springs City Engineer Larry Thompson said. It requires you to deflect right physically, and it requires vehicles to slow down. From a safety standpoint, most studies I have seen say accidents at roundabouts are fewer than other intersections, especially injury accidents. Most accidents that happen occur at low speeds.The stoplight intersection at Highway 6&24 and Mel Ray Road was the sight of a number of accidents in past years.Glenwood has not documented serious problems in its roundabout to date, but the Aspen Police Department has responded to several minor accidents in its circular intersection since its was completed in 1999.Since its a roundabout, there are not usually injuries, said Rick Magnuson, an Aspen community safety officer. There are some accidents, but they are fender benders.Entering traffic should always yield to circulating traffic, Magnuson said.The main thing is that you want to yield to people who are in there, said Magnuson, who has worked with the department for nine years. Once youre in there, you can stay in there because you have the right of way. Its actually against the law to use the outer lane unless youre taking the first exit.Making the rounds:Magnuson knows more than the average cop about roundabouts 1,200 times more.Besides my job as a police officer, Im also a performance artist, Magnuson said. I did a performance art piece in a Ryder truck with a gold fish in a bowl on the dashboard. I did 1,200 laps and got pulled over. I got in a little bit of trouble, but it was my day off.Exiting a roundabout can leave some motorists feeling as dizzy as Mickey Mouse during a Tea Cup ride publicity shoot. Wilson advised using slow speeds of no more than 25 miles per hour and signaling to indicate a turn off from the roundabout.Always go in a circle, Wilson said. I think the big thing is to just go slowly.Thompson agreed about the slow speeds, and said like a normal intersection, drivers should yield to pedestrians, and bicyclists should obey vehicle driving laws.You really only need to look one direction, except when a pedestrian is crossing you need to be alert for that, he said. Its still useful if you can signal your intentions where you plan to exit. You dont need to signal 500 feet before, but if you can signal before you turn as a courtesy, that will give other drivers the opportunity to enter.Shanks said motorists should basically treat a roundabout like a continuous right turn.I think the bottom line is just slow down and be patient of people who might be lost, Shanks said.Magnuson, who was not aware of Glenwoods new roundabout, said he may drive downvalley to compare.Maybe Ill come down in a Ryder truck, he joked.Hopefully his goldfish will be up for the ride.
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