Sunday, 17 July 2011


Roundabouts are a fine way of  connecting several roads to each other. By allowing everything to flow, they increase the capacity of junctions. They result in less stopping and starting, and therefore help to reduce fuel consumption and pollution. Having a big round space in the middle, they can be landscaped. Roundabouts are prettier than Crossroads.

Many of my local roundabouts have informal names associated with their appearance or proximity to other features. Ask anyone from Wallasey where the B and Q roundabout is, and they will send you pretty unerringly to Junction 1 of the M53, which has a big box retail park right next to it. The Clown roundabout is so called because it has a metal sculpture of a clown like figure.

I also have names for some of them that probably nobody else does.

Here, for example, is the Hairdryer Roundabout.
I call it that because the roadsign looks like a 1950's style hairdryer.

This is the Sad Rock Roundabout.

There is another sad rock on the other side of the roundabout.

This roundabout has now been resurfaced in a lovely red coloured apshalt.

It didn't stay red for long though. I call it the Birdshit roundabout.

So roundabouts are many things. They are a way of streamlining junctions. They are a source of humour. They are a blank canvas for gardeners and graffitti artists.

And they are trouble. I've lost more pupils because of roundabouts than for any other reason.

Here's why:

Experienced drivers do things at the right time. They work to the gaps. Learners can't necessarily do this. They look to the right and they see cars coming. Then they keep looking at the cars and they panic.

At T junctions, if you haven't had time to get yourself sorted, you can always stop, do what you need to do, make sure it's clear, and go. But this is potentially dangerous at roundabouts, because the person behind you is also likely to be looking right, and may well smack straight into the back of you if you sto pwhen you shouldn't. Two of the three accidents I've been involved in as an instructor have happened exactly this way. Someone looking right has assumed we would go, and for some reason we've stopped instead, and have been hit from behind a second or so later.

If I get a new pupil, and they tell me that they're struggling with say, reversing around corners, I'd generally get them reversing round corners. If I got them to do hill starts instead, I would not really be addressing their needs. (If, while driving to the corner I wanted them to reverse around, they buggered up a hill start, then dealing with hill starts might be a legitimate lesson plan) but if I meet a new pupil, and they tell me they are frightened of roundabouts, I'm left in a quandary.

Do I try to meet their fears head on? Or do I try to find some oblique way of doing it? It's a tough call, and whatever I try, I risk either destroying my pupil's confidence, or not dealing with what needs to be dealt with.

Update: I had a lesson last Monday that resulted in an incident where my pupil attempted to pull out in front of someone. I wrote this post kind of in anticipation. In due course, I got a text message cancelling tomorrow's remedial lesson, and citing a sudden interview (you found out about an interview on a Sunday??? Really?) This lady insists that she hasn't given up, but is unable to rearrange her lesson because she doesn't know her shifts yet.

Well of course not. She might even be telling the truth. But I doubt it. I wish people would just be straight with me.

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