The Ghosts of Roundabouts Future

I think I may have mentioned in the past that Bigtown’s drivers take a somewhat freestyle approach to roundabouts. On the big ones, indicating is optional (and bikes are invisible, but that’s standard issue for most of the UK), and on the little pimplebouts pretty much anything goes: nobody appears to have any idea who might have right of way in any given situation so you might as well just wing it and see what happens.

As I was commiserating with a fellow cyclist on the subject – we had both had more than usually boneheaded interactions with our fellow road users, although in my case, unusually, the problem was that two drivers on a three-arm roundabout had decided to stop for each other and in the end it was me who went as the others appeared to be waiting for nightfall before either of them moved – I remembered a story one of my fellow cycling campaign members had told me. She had overheard two older drivers in Bigtown discussing a new (and by ‘new’ I mean ‘installed some time early last century’) roundabout. ‘Oh, I just take no notice of it,’ one of them said.

Thinking about it, that seemed to explain everything. If half the drivers are behaving as if there is no roundabout, then a lot of their more bizarre decisions make a bit more sense. It might also explain why they’ve effectively cut one larger roundabout in half and flattened the middle circle, presumably so that Mrs Miggins can plough through it in her 20-year-old Ford Fiesta without getting tangled in the sheets people hang on it to announce significant birthdays*

Of course, having thought I’d cracked it, my new theory failed to explain why a driver might be waiting at a side road today, see me coming, and then pull out in front of me anyway, unless she was anticipating a roundabout that had not yet been built. So I shall just continue to cycle as if anything and everything could happen at any minute. It seems the safest way.

* Is this just a Bigtown thing? Would anyone ever be delighted to discover that their impending 40th had been announced through the medium of a crumpled sheet to the assembled masses at the local Macdonalds?


10 Responses to The Ghosts of Roundabouts Future

  1. Mary Smith says:

    No, they do it in Castle Douglas, too. Tied to the railings at the park at the top of King Street – so you can’t miss it when going round the roundabout.

  2. Jack says:

    You should always cycle “as if anything and everything could happen at any minute” – that’s THE best way to stay alive and uninjured on the roads, whether you’re on a bike, in a car or on foot. It’s a dangerous idea to start attributing common sense, civility, intelligence etc to drivers, even if some of them do possess it.

    As for the sheets, I’ve seen them all over the country, and I can remember them starting to appear (as a thing) in the mid 80s.

  3. disgruntled says:

    Perhaps if there were fewer sheets, the roundabouts might be a bit less random?

  4. john gibson says:

    I do not drive a lot these days but I think the standard of driving has dropped in recent years.

  5. WOL says:

    re: “So I shall just continue to cycle as if anything and everything could happen at any minute.”

    Here in the States, that’s actually a thing they teach. We call it “defensive driving.” You drive as if every driver you encounter will do the dumbest most bone-headed thing possible in any given situation, and govern your driving accordingly, because nine times out of ten, they will.

  6. WOL says:

    Oh, and the thing with the sheets — do they write anything on the sheets so you know who the birthday person is, or do they just hang up a blank sheet and you get to guess for whom the sheet flaps, or what?

  7. disgruntled says:

    @John – if I drove any less these days, I’d be doing negative amounts. Probably best for all concerned…
    @WOL – unfortunately that seems to translate into ‘drive as if doing anything or everything is permissible’ in some cases! (The sheets are written on, BTW)

  8. Charles says:

    Big town sounds just like Botswana. I had to go 10 times a year until I quit and the driving style was interesting. If no one had turned out of a road before then if I did it unexpectedly then the look of horror that crossed local faces when they cut in front of me was instructional. As I only drove to work every 5 weeks I was a constant menace. Thank goodness I have quit and now reside in Somerset where cyclists are split between honest workers and prats in Lycra. The prats deserve ŵhat happens to them and the people who ride because they have to deserve plaudits and positive action. If you have come across a middle aged man in Lycra, black of course, with no lights, holding up the traffic and tractors you would not really be too sympathetic to their bleating. Sorry not to fit in with the vibe but as a cyclist I am tired of trying to explain stupid and ill mannered behaviour to my other half.

    • disgruntled says:

      You could say the same about drivers, of course. Plenty of well-mannered sensible folk behind the wheel being let down by the boy racers and roundabout-ignorers of this world

  9. Charles says:

    Too true there are boy racers, some actually quite elderly, and some of them are female too. Evoques and Range Rovers usually, especially if suspiciously clean.

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