Roundabouts

May 9, 2010
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#1
Apparently the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has commissioned a group to look at introducing roundabouts into Japan. It was formed early in September. I can`t find anything in English but there`s some interesting stuff in Japanese here:http://www.mlit.go.jp/road/ir/ir-council/roundabout/doc01.html

Presumably they will look at the safety issues, traffic flow and also the earthquake/ tsunami evacuation benefits (stories of people stopping at lights and level crossings instead of getting to safety). I cannot imagine though the carnage which would ensue when first introduced here - there would have to be a massive education campaign for sure.
http://www.mlit.go.jp/road/ir/ir-council/roundabout/pdf01/4.pdf
Interesting that according to this document the UK first introduced roundabouts in the 1960s, and came up with formal guidelines in 1993. As a driver I appreciate the benefits to traffic flow; but I find them petrifying in heavy traffic on a bike. But better than stopping at the millions of lights in Japan.
Graham
 
Likes: microcord

microcord

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#2
Interesting that according to this document the UK first introduced roundabouts in the 1960s, and came up with formal guidelines in 1993.
Britain was very liberally strewn with roundabouts by the 1970s; and from the PoV of a regular car driver (I don't say that of an ambulance driver), most worked pretty well. (As a cyclist with hindsight and without a teenager's raging testosterone, I'm appalled by the way I used to brake minimally and barrel around roundabouts in my parents' car.)

The Wikipedia article on roundabouts looks like a labour of love; but I can even more strongly recommend Joe Moran's book On roads: A hidden history. (NB it's only about British roads.)
 

FarEast

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#3
Japan already has roundabouts they just aren't very common. There are two in Yokohama that I know of, but I can only see this as a positive thing.
 

kiwisimon

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#5
They are great for cars but Russian roulette for cyclists.
This is going to be the biggest problem integrating them into Japan, unless it will forbidden for cyclists to use such roads. The idea of a car or bus braking mid roundabout to let a bicycle have thoroughfare before it turns left kinda defeats the concept to speed up traffic flow.
 
Jun 6, 2013
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#6
Maybe I'm just thick (ok, not "maybe"), but explain why roundabouts are more dangerous to cyclists than standard intersections?

I get the problem of cars stopping to allow cyclists to pass on left when they (the cars) should be turning left without stopping. However, cyclists, when riding in traffic, should always be aware of cars around them, should be aware of that car behind them to the right and what that driver is signalling, and be traveling at a speed that is not too far out of line with other traffic.

That means: use your ears and listen for cars (um, duh...), look over your shoulder for cars and/or turn around 360 to look directly at cars behind you (um, duh..) and don't putter along at 10km/hr (um, duh..). Point is being safe in a roundabout will involve doing things on the bike that you already are doing anyway.

Now for those folks puttering about at 10km/hr on mamachari's, they will figure out quickly (um, with only one look) that roundabout are not for them and they'll stay on the pavement, where they are most of the time anyway.
 

microcord

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#7
I get the problem of cars stopping to allow cyclists to pass on left when they (the cars) should be turning left without stopping. However, cyclists, when riding in traffic, should always be aware of cars around them, should be aware of that car behind them to the right and what that driver is signalling, and be traveling at a speed that is not too far out of line with other traffic.
I take FarEast's word for it that roundabouts already exist in Japan. But even if they exist, the new roundabouts will be an unfamiliar experience for many drivers and cyclists. (Even those familiar with them in France, Britain, etc will wonder how others will use them in Japan.)

I go faster than mamachari riders but slower than FarEast, or of course cars. I've cycled in France but don't remember roundabouts there. I've plenty of experience of cycling around them in Britain (where they're clockwise). There, I quickly gauge each roundabout and more importantly its traffic as I approach it. If the traffic is plentiful or fast or otherwise looks problematic I go around the outside, hesitantly; if not, I go through it as I would on a motorbike. Japanese laws can't easily distinguish between different kinds of cyclist and must accept that mamachari are hugely more numerous than fast cyclists; so I guess that all cyclists will be told to go around the outside. Will we do so, when it seems safe to behave like a motorcyclist? If we go ahead and do the latter, will we be stopped and cautioned, or even fined?

There's quite a lot to ponder here. But a big plus is that only small percentage of Japan's drivers are, or behave as if they are, high on coke or low on smack. Less chance of being tooted or yelled at, or clipped, than elsewhere.
 
May 9, 2010
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#8
It is the unfamiliarity which will cause chaos, at least initially. I seem to remember at some point the french system was to give priority to traffic coming on to the roundabout rather than the usual give way to traffic already on it. The french have now come into line, and are pretty enthusiastic proponents of roundabouts based on my experience there this summer. But at some point they must have changed the law; and I wonder how long it took to change behaviour and get used to the new system.

As for danger, a mini roundabout, where there is only one lane, should be no more dangerous than any other part of the road or intersection. But on larger roundabouts, where vehicles need to change lane as they approach their exit, the chances of being cut up, or caught in a blind spot, seem higher. And because everything is moving, unlike at traffic lights, the situation is inherently more dangerous. Obviously we can all ride carefully and use our road craft, but a large roundabout is a terrifying place on a bike.

But overall, Japan currently has 138 roundabouts, so plenty of scope to put a few more in. I hope the mamachari lobby is going to be a force for good in ensuring safety, and adequate design and layout.
 

GSAstuto

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#9
Roundabouts are great where you have sets of intersecting roads and plenty of space to deploy them. The 'island' naturally isolates and controls traffic. In the US where they've implemented them primarily in subburbs to control traffic in residential areas, they've been quite successful. As a cyclist, I preferr roundabout than std 4 crossing and zero issues merging anywhere I've encountered them (US, UK, Europe). I believe they'd have very limited deployment in Japan simply due the congested and haphazard placement of the roads. There is just no space to carve out a roundabout. Maybe in new construction areas or suburb - but, Japan is hardly expanding, rather , it's contracting and putting even more pressure on the already crowded and congested urban areas. The countryside is no issue because the traffic is generally low to begin with and not as many intersecting roads. The best thing Japan could do to improve cycling infrastructure is:

1) Allow left turn on red with special, low mounted signals.
2) Formally establish cycling on the side strips by just painting symbols.
3) Establish a real cycling strip when they renew the main road (like Yamate dori - which they constructed the worst ever cycling 'path' known to mankind)
4) Get the cyclists on the streets and off the sidewalks.
5) Enforce same road rules to cyclists as cars (including the one-way streets) Sorry - rickshaws and donkey carts are not used and shouldn't be in the motor-vehicle lexicon.

These are very obvious and nearly universally applied standards in nearly every 1st world country on the planet. Why Japan has to continually lag behind is beyond my comprehension. These very basic urban transportation and roadway designations should have been implemented when they reconstructed after WWII. Not some 70yrs later as an afterthought.
 

kiwisimon

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#10
Maybe I'm just thick (ok, not "maybe"),

Now for those folks puttering about at 10km/hr on mamachari's, they will figure out quickly (um, with only one look) that roundabout are not for them and they'll stay on the pavement, where they are most of the time anyway.
And when would they be expected to cross?
 

GSAstuto

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#11
@tokyospur - one of the highlights for me in riding in France this year (and last) 'at speed' was the course through roundabouts. They are very easy to semi-control and risk of 90 degree collision is very low. Basically you are just merging with other traffic, then diverging to exit. Couldn't be easier , faster and a safer way to negotiate a route.

France and UK have the most roundabouts in my memory and experience of cycling there since the early 80's. Countries that rely more on interconnection roads, high urban density and mountainous regions used them less. (Like Greece, Portugal, Macedonia, etc.
 

joewein

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#12
Germany started re-introducing roundabouts in the mid-1990s and they've become very popular since then. As Tim points out, 90 degree collisions are less likely and when collisions do occur, average impact speeds tend to be lower as with traffic lights. What will work against them in Japan is the less effective land use.

In general roundabouts produce more fluent traffic than traffic lights do, but they don't work in all cases. If a minor road intersects with a major road with a lot of traffic on a roundabout, there can be few chances for vehicles from the minor road to enter and people become desperate and do stupid things. Such roundabouts are bad enough in a car, but unimaginable on a bicycle.
 
Jun 6, 2013
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#13
And when would they be expected to cross?
Well, in the UK roundabouts will have zebra crossings, where drivers are supposed to stop and allow pedestrians to pass when pedestrians are present. Or, for really big roundabouts, pedestrian tunnels under the road will be built. Thirdly, roundabouts are not placed in places with high pedestrian traffic (in my experience, which is only London).

In the US, there will be stop lights at roundabouts that only change when a pedestrian presses the crosswalk button.
 

GSAstuto

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#14
Another reason to ride a bike is not become a pedestrian. I found no hassles to merge onto high traffic roundabouts. Most drivers are used to this, and there is plenty of side space to squeeze in. Not all the cars are exiting the roundabout at your road - so, again, I don't see any issues here - either entering or departing the circle. When I did find myself afoot, dashing across a busy roundabout certainly raised some hairs on the back of my head. Also, the EU standard of 'Eye Contact = Yielding" is important to understand. If a pedestrian has continued eye contact with the cars - then the cars assume the pedestrian will yield. However, if a pedestrian makes a bold move into the crossing without such eye contact, then it's the responsibility of the car to yield. Especially as the road laws very clearly dictate that striking a pedestrian IN A CROSSING is a fairly grievous infraction. Even if there are pedestrian controls, the driver will almost always be held at fault.
 

FarEast

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#16
Itake FarEast's word for it that roundabouts already exist in Japan. But even if they exist, the new roundabouts will be an unfamiliar experience for many drivers and cyclists. (Even those familiar with them in France, Britain, etc will wonder how others will use them in Japan.)

But overall, Japan currently has 138 roundabouts, so plenty of scope to put a few more in. I hope the mamachari lobby is going to be a force for good in ensuring safety, and adequate design and layout.
 

wexford

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#17
I grew up with roundabouts. There was one about a mile down the road from my house. For the first few years big european trucks coming off the boat would sometimes end up on their side... probably due to being forced to drive on the left hand side of the road and think about a roundabout arriving at it at over 100km on a badly lit road at 3 in the morning. As a cyclist and driver I love them. Had a great time with them in France also this time around. Way better than the four way stop. As a cyclist perhaps just be sure to develop strong arm signals if you are not taking the first exit.
 
Jun 6, 2013
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#18
"I like the "supposed to", there is a crossing in front of my school and I have seen JHS kids wait up to 5 minutes in peak hour traffic, and this is Aomori, no real peak. "

Yielding right-of-way to pedestrians at crossings is not really enforced in Japan, as you can clearly see. In fact, I'd wager that most drivers don't even know that they are technically supposed to stop at the crossings. In the UK, the rule is enforced (again in my experience).

Yes roundabouts in Japan would require driver, pedestrian, and cyclist for that matter, education, but this is not a major impediment.
 
May 9, 2010
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#19
Article in The Economist on this very topic:

http://www.economist.com/news/international/21587244-roundabouts-have-turned-corner-circling-globe

excerpt:
"They drive some people round the bend. Signs and public-service announcements have taught Americans how to negotiate their new rotaries. That is not the case in some poor countries. Motorists in Baghdad sometimes circle them in both directions. In parts of Italy drivers expect cars already on the junction to give way to those joining it. Nor are the safety benefits shared with all road users. Researchers at Hasselt University in Belgium say that cyclists are 41% more likely to die at a roundabout than at a crossroads. They have been known to swallow pedestrians. In Britain the body of a man who collapsed while crossing one lay undiscovered for 11 days."