Pennsylvania Converts Traditional Intersections Into Roundabouts

Place Charles de Gaulle
Place Charles de Gaulle, opened in Paris, France in 1907.

In the recent years, Pennsylvania has converted many of its traditional intersections into roundabouts. State officials say this has led to a 90-percent reduction in fatal crashes at these intersections, and a 75-percent reduction in injury-causing crashes. Roundabouts replace a traditional intersection’s stop signs or traffic signals with a large circular median in the middle of the intersection around which traffic flows. Vehicles may proceed into the roundabout only when there is no traffic in the roundabout to their left.

Roundabouts have co-existed peacefully with humans in other countries throughout Europe like the U.K. and France, and elsewhere like Australia for decades. However, roundabouts are a relatively rare and new traffic control device in the United States. Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation has published a web page and YouTube video dedicated to educating Pennsylvania drivers about how to navigate roundabouts in the hopes of further increasing safety.

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state recognizing the value of roundabouts. Many new developments around the country, including in Utah, are opting for the safer interchange. There is even a web site creatively titled Roundabouts USA, which is “dedicated to free traffic flow through the design and use of roundabouts” and offers “the most recent news and information about the progress of roundabouts in the USA.”

The city of Swarthmore, Penn., converted one of its busiest, most-dangerous, and confusing intersections into a roundabout in July 2015. Residents were very weary to such an unfamiliar traffic control device when it was first proposed, but since its opening, nearly all of those who opposed the roundabout have come full circle in their opinion. One resident who had written a letter to the editor vehemently opposing the roundabout before it was completed later wrote a public apology admitting that the “roundy” as it’s known to locals is a success in terms of traffic throughput, beauty, safety, and accessibility.

Swarthmore Before The Roundabout
Swarthmore Before The Roundabout
Swarthmore Roundabout
Swarthmore After the Roundabout