Quote of the Week

"One cool judgment is worth a thousand hasty councils."
- Woodrow Wilson

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fear Based Reasoning Replaced By Understanding Based Logic, In a Roundabout Way

Basically I live out in the woods. While there is a lot more people in this area compared to when I was growing up, the area is pretty rural. The county I live in has two traffic lights.

There are plans to put in a roundabout where two state highways intersect. This has many of the locals concerned, and with reason. I used to be one of them. While this roundabout was just in the initial planning stages, the Wisconsin DOT started building on in the county south of the one I live in. It is at a intersection on a busy highway by a recently built Menard's home improvement store.

I was convinced that this was a horrible idea. People seem to have a hard enough time with four way stops and traffic lights. I felt that putting in a roundabout would just confuse people, causing more accidents. I pictured weekend traffic of big RVs pulling boat trailers slamming into the do-it-yourselfers leaving Menards every Saturday morning. I felt that, while roundabouts may work in cities with cars and SUVs driving at lower speeds, they are not suited for highways with with semi-trucks and weekend traffic going 65 mph.

Well the roundabout has been in place at that intersection for about a year now, with no major problems at all. With that, and learning more about roundabouts, my mind has been changed and I like them.

Here are my reasons:

  • They are really simple to navigate. Just merge with the traffic coming from the left
  • They are low maintenance and don't require electricity. (ever see the pure confusion at a light when they are malfunctioning?)
  • Roundabouts are safer than signal controlled junctions, with crashes usually occurring at a slower speed and at a slight angle instead of right-angle or rear-end collisions at junctions.
  • Roundabouts allow U-turns within the normal flow of traffic, which often are not possible at other forms of junction.
  • In general, roundabouts substantially reduce congestion and delays as vehicles are not required to perform a complete stop.
  • Compared to intersections, Roundabout operate more efficiently and thus reduce delays and congestion as they are not at the whim of an artificially induced delay by traffic signals. Efficiency is gained by a direct response from the driver to the traffic conditions without any restrictions set by traffic signals - i.e. drivers may proceed when traffic is clear without the delay incurred by a traffic signal.
  • Since they are new to this area, they seem to make drivers concentrate more at the intersection

My change of opinion on roundabouts came about with me learning more about them an actually using them. Roundabouts are not the only thing someone can change their minds about. It's easy to make up your mind on something your unfamiliar with and find frightening.

Perhaps is someone tried a vegan meal, they would actually like it. They may not quit eating meat, but they may not find vegetarians so weird.

Maybe if someone who hates guns, because they can be a tool of violence, went to a range with a responsible firearms owner; they may see why some find shooting sports fun and how firearms can be used responsibly  They may not want to go buy a shotgun or an AR-15 of their own, but they may no longer think they should be banned from existence.

Think of my roundabout story the next time a politician flip flops on an issue. Maybe they did more research and found their original view to be a knee jerk reaction based on the fear that comes with unfamiliarity. Or perhaps they got an overwhelming responses from the people they represent and decided to, well, represent.

One way I could solve the worlds problems would be to ask people to learn more about the things they are against. Because how can we expect our leaders and Representatives in Washington D.C to reach across the aisle and compromise, if we won't do that ourselves?

There is still one thing that bugs me about roundabouts. I can not go through one without saying "Look kids, there's Big Ben, there's Parliament" in my Clark Griswold voice. I think it might bug my passengers more.

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