For the Love of Roundabouts
The grand adventure began in 1907, according to the Internet, when an architect named John McLaren designed something called a roundabout, for cars and street cars, in California.
It continued with the Brits, who built a “circular junction” in 1909.
It spread to Minnesota in 1995, starting in Brooklyn Park.
And now I come along and, attempting to head north out of Pine Island, swing through the roundabout and go flailing either onto a scenic frontage road adjoining Highway 52; onto Highway 52 South; onto whatever road heads east out of Pine Island; or back into Pine Island to sit in my car and scream bloody murder, before launching a full-out offensive to try and rejoin all the motorists speeding happily past on their way to the Twin Cities.
Roundabouts: The Future is Here!
Featuring wide, bewildering intersections, multiple “Yield” signs, traffic zooming up from every angle, and enough hot frustration to power a nuke plant.
You have about 1.5 seconds to choose an exit, Johnson. Which will it be?
I need time to process my many options. But there is none. There’s another car in the rear view mirror, ready to burrow into my backseat if I don’t decide quickly.
My split-second decision sends me back onto the frontage road, and then past the 52 North exit (Ohmygodthereitis!) and back into Pine Island, which is all but blocked by road construction.
There’s a tiny sign on the main drag reading “To Highway 52.” You turn down the indicated street – and notice that it is closed due to construction.
Well, Pine Island is a fine city. Might as well settle here, ‘cause I sure can’t escape it.
I just. Don’t. Get it.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation does, of course.
“In short, roundabouts are being used because they work well,” MnDOT declares. “A roundabout used at the right location will let you get through the intersection more safely and in less time.”
MnDOT says the bloody things have decreased fatal crashes by 86 percent, decreased life-altering injury crashes by 83 percent, and decreased the injury crash rate by 42 percent at intersections.
“They handle high levels of traffic with less delay than most stop signs or signals. The entry curves slow traffic, so entering and exiting are easier and more efficient,” it says, adding that, where roundabouts replace signals, idling decreases, reducing vehicle emissions and fuel consumption by 30 percent or more.
That’s fine. But MnDOT does not take hoops, hurdles, and human indecision and heartache into consideration.
It does not note that, if you can navigate Pine Island’s legendary roundabout, there’s another one coming up in Cannon Falls.
Minnesota has gone roundabout crazy, and soon there’ll be one lurking around every dark corner.
As long as we’re here, we might as well create a newspaper column roundabout.
Think you can escape this column, eh?
Hah! That particular turnoff will lead you into a column written by someone at the News-Record, in Zumbrota - home of not one but TWO roundabouts, one on each side of Highway 58.
They say Mazeppa is nice this time of year.