Rules of the Road: Is a small traffic circle the same as a roundabout?

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 23, 2014 

Question: There is a roundabout at the intersection of Michigan and Texas streets with stop signs on either side of the roundabout on Michigan. Many of my neighbors seem to be under the impression that you do not need to treat this roundabout as a roundabout because of the stop signs, and they will make left turns onto Texas from Michigan without going all the way around the roundabout (and vice versa). This confusion has resulted in some very close calls for people using the roundabout correctly. Am I correct in believing that the roundabout must still be treated as a roundabout, despite the stop signs?

Answer: In actuality, this is not a roundabout but a "traffic calming circle" that was put in to slow traffic through the area. It does need to be driven around, like a roundabout. Those drivers who "cut through" are risking a notice of infraction for failing to stay right of center ($124). The stop signs just mean that the vehicles on the main road have the right of way, not the ability to cut the corner.

Q: I make a point of speeding up to Interstate 5 speeds when coming down an on-ramp. I always have lots of time to find a spot to seamlessly blend in without disrupting interstate traffic. Using the gas or brake pedal, I can always match the speed of the traffic I am merging into. However, some others come down the on-ramp and try to merge at a speed way slower than I-5 traffic and invariably expect people in the right lane of the freeway to move over to the left to get out of the way. This seems dangerous and problematic to me. Am I off base here?

A: No. The traffic on the on-ramp should be accelerating to a speed appropriate to merge into the traffic on the freeway. The freeway traffic is not required to change lanes. I do occasionally see traffic on the freeway speed up to block a vehicle from merging in front of them. This also can be a problem and is detrimental to smooth freeway traffic flow.

ABOUT RULES OF THE ROAD

Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to bellinghamherald.com/traffic.

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