21.4.11

FLATLANDERS ARE NOT NEW ENGLANDERS.  The Midwest's worst drivers resist the rotary.
"I've never been on one in America," said Alice Zator, whose business sits at the planned roundabout site on Oak Park Avenue and 183rd Street. "My concern is, are there other options? Why would we do something that's not familiar to the Midwest?"

Her reaction is a common one as Illinois joins neighboring states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana in embracing roundabouts for their increased safety.

At least 10 roundabouts have recently been considered or launched in the Chicago area. The intersections consist of a center island surrounded by a one-way lane of traffic where drivers yield to circling cars without the instruction of stop signs or traffic signals.
If I understand Ms. Zator's statement, she has encountered such things overseas, but she's never been to Massachusetts, or to New York, two states with a common border but different right-of-way rules for use of the rotary.

Rotaries are effective at taming traffic and expediting traffic flow, particularly compared to streets with badly timed traffic lights and left-turn reservations at each signalled crossing.  But Midwestern traffic engineers have a tendency to overdesign them.  In Wisconsin, a driver must often choose which lane to use to enter the rotary, and the simple YIELD sign that suffices to enforce right-of-way is overshadowed with an expressway-style gantry designating the lanes to choose.  Worst of both possible worlds.

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