SEDRO WOOLLEY, Wash. — One of the things you notice when visiting small towns between Seattle and the Canadian border is that the planners in those towns all took the same class. It was a class on roundabouts.
If you are a person who has shopped at River Park in Fresno, or has traveled in some cities in England or France, you have experienced roundabouts. Instead of entering an intersection and going straight, or left, or right, you drive around a circular blockade two or more feet high and about two car widths in diameter. The purpose of these roundabouts, I believe, is to make drivers’ lives safer and easier.
Instead of turning left, for example, the driver first is made to drive around the roundabout, then straightening out at the last minute at the point where the left turn would have been made had the roundabout not been there. It is very clever in theory.
But theory doesn’t always prove out. Instead of safely turning left, as one would do after stopping at an intersection and signaling, one instead follows the roundabout past the left turn and winds up in the opposite direction of where one was going in the first place. If one slows long enough to try to figure out where one is supposed to go, other drivers begin to honk and show off their middle fingers. It is all very confusing.
Half a dozen roundabouts were seen where there were none a few years ago. But the most puzzling was the one in Sedro Woolley, where this is being written. It is just a small town with little traffic, content with dull plodding along, which is noble, but not inventive. The population did just fine for 50 years stopping at stop signs and making left turns. Now come roundabouts. Confusion reigns.