I've been living overseas for the past month, driving on the opposite side of the road and learning the joys of the roundabout. Yes, I'm talking about those traffic circles found abundantly in foreign countries that are conspicuously rare in the U.S., especially on the west coast. But after some thought, and a few discussions with my engineer father on the matter, I've come to believe that roundabouts are the future for California. Here's why:
- They create public works employment opportunities - and the huge unemployment rate in this state could use a few job opps!
- They're better for the environment: The amount of unnecessary stopping and idling at a stoplight isn't just a test of one's patience, it's also a huge waste of gas. Driving around a circle, where you either slow and yield or slow and go, minimizes idling and wasted gas. It also minimizes electricity used at stoplights.
- They improve traffic because it moves more continuously (which also decreases unneeded acceleration and gas expenditure).
As with any brilliant plan, there are a few drawbacks, namely traffic. We have plenty in California's cities, so initiating a project that will temporarily create more may seem unpopular in the short term, but in the long term people will see the benefits and be willing to suck it up while the circles are built.
Another little snag: it'll be an adaptation for people to figure out how to actually drive around a traffic circle. (The scene from European Vacation of Chevy Chase driving around the circle by Big Ben and Parliament comes to mind.) But, if you've ever driven along 26th Street in Santa Monica (at Washington Ave.), you know that there's a circle there and people manage pretty well.
So I say to the candidates in the upcoming California gubernatorial race: consider an initiative for roundabouts. It's a pretty straightforward idea.
Follow Meg Hemphill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mhemp1