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Baldric-Man’s Traffic Circles for Dummies January 21, 2010

Posted by baldricman in Baldric-Man.
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Aaargh! I can’t take it any longer! After years of encounters of the traffic-circle kind, I may have finally snapped. I’m just so completely and utterly sick of having to approach and negotiate traffic circles, while trying to follow the *real* rules of the road, and somehow incorporate the idiotic, sheep-like current trends that seem to govern (just about) every other driver’s demented usage of “roundabouts” and “mini-circles”.

Today, on my way home, I had yet another run in with some twit, who managed to exhibit tendencies of nervousness, aggressiveness, and lack-of-foresighted-ness (forgive me, I’m ranting), all in the space of about 15 seconds. I won’t go into the details: you all probably know exactly what happened.

So please consider this a public service announcement. I am now going to lay down the very-uncomplicated rules of traffic circles in one easy page for my intelligent readers to distribute amongst their less fortunate friends.

Herewith, Baldric-Man’s Traffic Circles for Dummies

  1. Traffic Circles are NOT confusing. I promise. It’s a road. It’s round. You drive around it clockwise (that’s important). You don’t crash into anyone. (Also important)
  2. Traffic Circles are NOT 4-way stops. Official Legislation quite clearly states that a driver should slow when approaching (just like any intersection, actually), yet need not stop (unless necessary obviously, just like a standard Yield)
  3. Yield (wait) for vehicles in the circle, to your right (i.e. approaching). When you want to enter a circle, you need to wait for vehicles to your right, who are already in the circle, and who you will be obstructing if you join at that moment. Think about this: it’s just like any other time you turn on to a road, change lanes, etc: if, by doing so, you’re going to get in someone’s way, or cause an accident, you probably shouldn’t go just yet. (Mind-blowing, I know). If the other car has not entered the circle yet, you’re allowed to go (but be sensible: if they are *just* about to enter, and are travelling quite quickly, which they’re entitled to do, you should wait)
  4. Some people find it helpful to write a little “R” on their Right hand, to remind themselves of that tricksy little gem.
  5. When you want to leave a circle (which, presumably, you do) you Indicate Left as soon as you pass the exit *before* the exit you want to take. Now, that might sound confusing, but again, if you think about it, it’s exactly like any other time you turn off a road: You indicate as soon as you can, as long as your road or exit is the next one (with no others before it) Also: If you are taking the first exit of a circle, then you are supposed to indicate left before you even join the circle. Now, there is a modern trend of indicating Right when in the bigger, “proper” circles (actual “Roundabouts”), and you are intending on taking the 3rd (or later) exit, but personally I think its confusing, illogical, and generally daft (I’ll explain another time) – I may be wrong on this, but I’m about 99% sure that it isn’t a traffic law or requirement.

There are a lot of comments out there on the web about the confusing differences between full-blown Roundabouts, and the baby-brother Mini-Circles. Although there are some differences in the descriptions and wording, I can assure you, the fundamental basics of yielding, approach, and indication are all the same, and based in common sense. (Which is specifically why I have not made any distinction – because I don’t see any practical difference)

And if you find this still too confusing, Baldric-Man’s Quick Reference Summary of a Traffic Circle:

It’s *exactly* like any road, except it’s like a bit curvy and stuff. When you join a traffic circle, it’s like joining a normal road from another road with a Yield sign – a Yield sign just reminds you not to be an ass, and to wait for other cars who have right of way (i.e. they are already on that road, stupid). When you want to turn off the road, you indicate, and then turn off the road.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything simpler.

Ok, now for something more serious. Seeing as there is a chance you might think I’m missing something, or making stuff up, etc, here are a few links to sites you’ll hopefully regard as reliable. Otherwise, you will just have to take my word that the information above is taken from my experience in learning the K53 (many moons ago), in reading up the official legislation and guidelines, and perhaps most notably, in an online forum debate with a local Traffic officer about 3 years ago.

Arrive Alive has this to say…

and RoadSafety.co.za has this helpful page…

And finally, the official regulatory statement for the Roundabout sign is stated as follows:

The roundabout regulatory sign R137 imposes a mandatory requirement that drivers entering a roundabout shall turn to the left and shall travel  round the roundabout in a clockwise direction, and it imposes a mandatory requirement that drivers entering a roundabout shall yield right-of-way to traffic approaching from the right, within the round-about, where such traffic is so close as to constitute a danger or potential danger.

That nugget can be found here: http://www.transport.gov.za/library/legislation/roadtraffic/Command_Signs_Detail.html#r137



1. Allen - January 21, 2010

Finally, somebody said it! Bravo, sir, Bravo!

2. Tessa - January 21, 2010

Excellent! Top notch! Hurrah!

From my understanding, there are also some easy to follow conventions regarding lane usage in double-laned traffic circles. Perhaps when the simpletons of the world have grasped the basics, we can move onto the more complicated stuff.

3. Daft Punk Coffee Table | Coffee Top - January 21, 2010

[…] Baldric-Man's Traffic Circles for Dummies « Baldric's Blog […]

4. Deems - January 21, 2010

Finally, someone that shares my same sentiment. Well done – now, besides myself, I know one other person that understands how to navigate a roundabout!

5. billy - January 22, 2010

huh.. finally thanks bro

6. Joe Newbert - January 22, 2010

Depends on whether you were brought up on roundabouts! Isn’t the circle new to SA? Aren’t squares only recently being phased out?!

(BTW – it’s the lack of lane thinking that gets me – if you are taking the third exits do not be in the left hand lane!!)

baldricman - January 22, 2010

hey Joe. I wasn’t brought up on nice English roundabouts, but I *was* brought up with an iota of sense, which I’ve found quite useful in the past. 😉
But yes, I realise roundabouts are not terribly common in many SA cities (East London is one notable exception of course, the name perhaps having something to do with it), which I think scares people a little (unnecessarily imho)
The lane-changing thingy: there is actually very little clear guidance in the legislation on this, except that for the first exit, and maybe second, you keep left. Also, its generally interpreted that if you want to change lanes (say from the inside lane to the outside, so you can take an exit), it’s your job to find a gap: nobody has to give you right of way (which means you may go round the circle a few more times) – a notion which, again, is identical to driving on a “normal” road.

Deems - January 22, 2010

Maybe it’s just me (well while driving towards and around roundabouts, it would appear so) but I think common-sense would dictate if you’re in the left lane you take the first exit you encounter, if you want to take another one, stay in the right-hand lane until the exit before yours and then move over to the left hand lane (if there’s a gap) while indicating. I tried to highlight that in my post to compliment this one.

7. Galen Schultz - January 22, 2010

lol, a colleague of mine went to film people trying to navigate a traffic circle in Pmb. He only needed to be there 20 minutes to capture enough people ballsing the whole experience up! It quite funny to watch: Circles of confusion

8. Juffs - January 22, 2010

Nice one Baldric! Well said. I must confess I am generally a little nervous going into a traffic circle because you never really know what the other drivers are gonna do. Slip lanes which bypass the circle (for people who want to take the first exit), are always much appreciated.

Anyway, regarding your comment on indicating before entering the circle – I remember hearing this whole issue discussed on East Coast Radio a long time back and they did say to indicate right before entering the circle if you intend to take the 3rd exit (obviously the assumption is that you will be entering the circle in the inside lane if you are gonna take the 3rd exit).

I’m not sure if it was official and like you say I’m fairly sure it’s not required or dictated by the rules of the road – it doesn’t serve much purpose unless the cars behind you are actually paying attention as you arrive at the traffic circle and looking to see where you plan to go.

baldricman - January 22, 2010

thanks for the comments Juffs. I believe Arrive Alive also recommend indicating right, but I’ve taken another look for this and still can’t find it as a requirement. However, I think it only serves to give an indication to those behind you, and does nothing at all for everyone else in the circle (except perhaps confuse them) : they will not necessarily be aware from which “branch” you entered on, so therefore the “third” or later exit is meaningless to them. Does that make sense? Not sure if I’m describing it well…

9. Frank - January 27, 2010

I have had a few close calls when people have used the outside lane of a 2-lane circle to travel 270 degrees, while I am on the inside lane going 180.

baldricman - January 27, 2010

You do 180 in a circle?!? Oh, right, degrees….
But yeah, I hear you, it’s crazy what people try to do in a circle, and the scary thing is I don’t see an end in sight 😦

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