Potato, “Patato”; Rondabout, Rotary!

4 Aug

It is hard to believe that there is a need from traffic calming on LMU’s quiet main campus in Harrogate, but that is the exact remedy the administration is implementing to slow down speed demons around campus.

The message was delivered in a post on pathway. Sections of the Mars-DeBusk Parkway would be closed for close to six weeks for “road repairs.” I thought it seemed simple enough. The section affected was on the DCOM hill between the medical school and the Business Education building. There was a pretty big dip there anyway, so surely they would just be addressing that.

After the first week of repairs it looked straightforward. The crews were digging up asphalt and dirt. There appeared to be some leveling going on, but nothing to draw suspicion. By week two, a clear circular shape could be seen.

Oh no, could that be a dreaded rotary?

A quick confession. I am a fairly average human being. I’m neither short nor tall; strikingly beautiful nor frighteningly unattractive; overly intelligent nor dunce; giftedly athletic nor tragically uncoordinated. I am pretty average in all that I do (except baking… I rock a mean chocolate chip cookie), especially driving. But nothing freaks me out on the road more than approaching a rotary or Jersey wall.

Every year my husband and I pack up our family and make the 12-hour journey to my hometown in Marcellus, N.Y. (a small village outside of Syracuse if you’ve never heard of it). The husband cracks up once we cross into Pennsylvania because I instantly grip the wheel a little tighter, sit up a little straighter and the stress becomes visible on my face. If you have ever driven through Pennsylvania, you know there is going to be construction and its going to involve Jersey walls at some point.

The second most frightening thing to me on the road is a rotary. Now rotaries, much like soda (pop, coke, soda-pop), are known by different names in virtually every part of the country. In  the Northeast and especially Massachusetts they call them rotaries. In England they are known as roundabouts. They are also called traffic calming circles or just traffic circles. I just call them scary.

The concept is pretty easy. Traffic is merged into a circular intersection in which it travels in one direction around a central island. Multiple exit points exist and the confusion comes when you consider every traffic circle, rotary or what-hav- you can play by different rules. In some countries, for instance, traffic entering the circle has the right-of-way and drivers in the circle must yield. In many other countries, it is the traffic entering the circle that must yield.

To add more heat to the issue, though most people use roundabout and traffic circle or rotary interchangeably, U.S. traffic engineers make the distinction that in a roundabout entering traffic must always yield and in a traffic circle entering traffic is controlled by stop signs, traffic signals or is not formally controlled. 

In theory it is more efficient than traffic lights and stops signs because it keeps everyone moving. My irrational fear of rotaries and roundabouts comes from a bad experience as a passenger when the vehicle I was traveling in got stuck in the wrong lane of a multi-lane rotary. Picture a National Lampoon-esque experience like when Clark Griswald drives his family endlessly around the busy Lambeth Bridgeroundabout for hours.

"Look kids it's Big Ben."


The LMU traffic circle, I am told, is going to be a true roundabout, where traffic in the circle will have the right-of-way. The circular intersection will address speed and safety issues on the DCOM hill. The intersection will merge traffic from the Business Education building and the Tex Turner Arena on to the stretch of Mars-DeBusk Parkway that leads to the main DCOM exit and traffic light on highway 25E. It should be ready by the time our undergraduate students head back to class on August 23.

Maybe by then I will have the courage to conquer my fears. After all this is just the right proactive step to easing what is sure to be an increasingly busy thoroughfare once the new Math and Science building is complete.  Besides, I’ve got to be the only one on campus with this irrational rotary-phobia. We all have to have patience for progress.

One Response to “Potato, “Patato”; Rondabout, Rotary!”


  1. The Roundabout is complete! « AbeSquare - August 15, 2011

    […] August 4, my blog post (https://abesquare.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/potato-patato-rondabout-rotary/) was all about my irrational fear of roundabouts. Well the day has come for me to conquer that fear […]

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