Riding through roundabouts – rules and safety 101
by Miha Ernstschneider STS
Especially in densely populated areas with a lot of traffic, many classic intersections were replaced with roundabouts for the many benefits they bring. On the other hand, many riders and drivers find it much more complicated and complex to use since it comes with a few rules that differentiate from the ones that apply to classic intersections. But in fact, it is really simple if you follow the four basic rules, that I will try to present and explain later in this post.
First, what is a roundabout and what are the benefits in comparison to regular intersections?
A roundabout is a circular intersection that is intended to increase traffic flow, improve safety and the air quality in densely populated areas. It also reduces fuel consumption and traffic noise. In countries where we ride on the right-hand side, we use the roundabouts in counter clockwise direction, and it is exactly the opposite in countries, where you ride on the wrong side, oh, pardon me, on the left-hand side, where you enter the roundabout in the clockwise direction.
Studies show that there is a significant increase in safety compared to regular intersections. Here are some basic facts of the safety increase after the introduction of roundabouts into traffic (Source: The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Government of British Columbia):
- 35% decrease in crashes
- 76% fewer vehicle-related injuries
- 90% fewer fatalities
The numbers show a very positive effect of a roundabout as a substitute to a regular intersection. But since the use of a roundabout is a bit more complex, many drivers and riders usually don’t feel very confident, due to lack of knowledge of the basic rules that apply to roundabouts. To fully understand and to still keep it simple, we can divide the roundabout use into four simple steps:
- Entering the roundabout
- Exiting the roundabout
When approaching the roundabout, reduce your speed, observe the surroundings for cyclists and pedestrians, lane markings and signs that define possible exceptions or specific rules to the roundabout you are about to enter.
Regardless of the type of the vehicle that is already on the roundabout, they have the right-of-way. Wait patiently for a gap and make sure it is safe to enter the roundabout by looking left and right, not only for oncoming vehicles but also for pedestrians and cyclists.
After you made sure it is safe to enter the roundabout, you continue the ride in the counter clockwise direction (clockwise direction if you are riding on the left-hand side).
Every time you are exiting, use your right turn signal to indicate that you are about to leave the roundabout. Proper signalling is very important so that other motorists can adapt their speed according to your intentions. Always exit the roundabout from the outermost lane, never from the inside lane (except on some exceptions where the exits are specially marked with signs that define where the lanes go). If the roundabout has only one lane, you follow this lane until your exit. If the roundabout has multiple lanes, you use the outermost lane if you are about to exit on the first exit. Otherwise, you take the inner lane, and you follow it until you reach the last exit before your exit. At this point, it is important, that you signal your intention to exit with your right turn signal by applying the MSPSL routine (Mirror, Signal, Position, Speed and Look) and don’t forget to check the right blind spot (left blind spot if you ride on the left-hand side).
Since we have covered the simple basics, there is still room for some quality advice:
Never stop in a roundabout unless the traffic conditions require it. If you run into an emergency vehicle, it is better to wait before or after the roundabout. Be careful if sharing the roundabout with a larger vehicle like a bus or truck – sometimes the bigger vehicles require more space and need to use both lanes to cross the roundabout. Reduce your speed significantly and allow yourself more time for observing the traffic around you – with the reduced speed you won’t need to bend in a curve that much and you will be in a position to have a better view around yourself. And probably the most important part – USE YOUR MOTORCYCLE TURN SIGNAL at the right time and let others know where you are going.
REMEMBER – it is a rider’s responsibility to inform himself about potential differences in road rules in a particular country. Make sure that you check the details before going on a trip abroad, don’t forget to stay fully focused on the road and always make the safer decision.
»Look ahead and ride safely.«