All quiet on the EV front – operation general rant is a go

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Okay so its been consistently below zero degrees Celsius here in Bristol, at least in the mornings so I have been using my other car, a 4×4 to get about. As such the EV has been taking a well earned, but chilly break in the garage.

So having the urge to write something I have decided to instead have a general rant about one particular motoring issue that causes me great consternation – mini roundabouts and a couple of other minor things.

If you are not from the UK then this might not make much sense to you but for the rest I assume there will be some sympathy.

The mini roundabout as shown heremini-roundabout

is a convenient way of connecting several small roads so that in theory each approaching stream of traffic gets a fair chance at traversing the junction and does not require any expensive lights/sensors to operate. Unlike a normal roundabout these occupy a small area and because of this they do not have kerbs in the centre or else large vehicles such as buses/HGV’s would be unable to move across them. This creates many problems as multiple vehicles can cross from multiple directions at the same time. It is clear a lot of drivers can’t cope with this “two-things-happening-at-once” situation.

So what’s the problem? Its the lack of ability of a considerable number of drivers using them to understand how they work, leading to very poor traffic flow and huge frustration from the rest of us who do appreciate the subtlety. Also and directly related to this they are a cause of a lot (possibly the most common site) for urban low speed collisions.

A full-sized roundabout operates a simple system requiring approaching drivers to look to their right and if nothing is coming around the roundabout they can go. A mini roundabout also operates this system, but, and here is the crucial and it seems often ignored difference; if three vehicles approach the roundabout and each driver looks to the vehicle on their right and decides to stay put, a paralysis occurs. Each driver potentially feels they must not go as they do not have right of way, due there being a car on their right. Nothing happens for an interminably long time, many long slow seconds, and unless someone plucks up the courage to go first placing them into the path of the vehicle to their right this “Mexican stand-off” continues. Sometimes all three drivers or the bravest two, move off at once and this can be the cause of the aforementioned collision.

The problem above is particularly acute when three people approach the roundabout and then stop unable to go because of the car to their right. However this is rarely the case. Usually as you approach there should be a natural order, the first person arriving at the roundabout is usually able to proceed across/around as any car to their right has not reached the roundabout yet.

A second and equally exasperating phenomenon occurs when one driver waiting to cross the roundabout refuses to go because there is a vehicle on the approach to their right, even if there are also vehicles coming across from the opposite side, effectively blocking the vehicles on their right from being able to proceed. In this case it is perfectly safe for them to go, and not doing so will irritate those behind them. In this case the problem is with this driver who cannot for the love of all things, see that they need to observe the other vehicles from both of the other approaches, not just the approach to their right. Failing to see this obvious connection leads right minded competent drivers to consider whether that person really ought to be driving at all. I am not asking them to factor prime numbers in their head, whilst whistling Motzart and also driving, just to see that there is a fairly simple system before them and they have to think about how it works and interact with two things, not just one.

During the rush-hour or in busy urban areas, contrary to popular belief, the road system often works more efficiently. This is due to drivers being in a hurry, being used to rush-hour conditions and due to the time of day there is a higher proportion of drivers who drive frequently and are generally more competent. It is during these conditions that “perfect” mini roundabout usage sometimes takes place. In this scenario, where cars are queued at all three approaches to the roundabout, one car goes across then the car to their right, then the car to their right and so all cars cross one after another taking one vehicle from each approach each time the cycle takes place. This is optimum and everyone gets a fair crack of the whip and traffic flows.

So please for the love of mike, if you do not understand how a mini roundabout works, take the bus or walk!

One more thing – indicators…. If there is no other vehicle that will be affected by indicating then DON’T BOTHER. Using your indicators should not be a matter of switching them on in a given situation as if by reflex, but instead they should be used where they will bring clarity not confusion. The police call this signal clutter and on an advance motorcycle course I was told by the police not to indicate unless there is a benefit. This requires intelligent, thinking-driving the exact and much more desirable opposite of “going through the motions” in a half-awake stupor.

Putting mini roundabouts aside for now as the rules for indicating here are a little different; indicator use on full sized roundabouts, by many drivers, leaves a lot to be desired. Here are some simple rules which the highway code makes perfectly clear. When approaching and turning left indicate LEFT. When approaching going straight on DO NOT indicate. When approaching going right indicate RIGHT. When leaving the roundabout INDICATE LEFT EVERY TIME as you are exiting to the left/making a left turn every time you leave a roundabout irrespective of whether you are in broader terms making a left/right turn or going straight on.

You are letting vehicles waiting to cross know that you are coming off the roundabout, and letting vehicles behind know that you are moving to the left. I see people getting all of the above wrong time and again with resulting collisions. If this is too complicated for you and if your walking shoes are not roadworthy, then consider not indicating at all on roundabouts. This is slightly annoying and carries a small risk of another vehicle pulling out in front of you but weighed against indicating the wrong way, it is considerably less dangerous.

Here are a few video examples to mull over

All that happened here is the Saxo that pulls out in front of the driver filming fails to react to the indicators of the two cars pulling off the roundabout and is indecisive or unobservant and hesitates, then deciding he/she should have gone decides to throw caution to the wind and go anyway. Accident avoided as the driver filming sees them and slows down. If you f*cked it up don’t overcompensate on your next action, just compose yourself and try again.

In this one you see the stand-off situation above, my solution here is always to go first, this is not arrogant its assertive, someone needs to get the f*ck on with it and it might as well be me, or you! It helps if you have a car that leaves the line like a stabbed rat, like my Nissan Leaf not a car where you will have to wrestle with the ageing clutch and clunky gearbox at every junction.

The other danger situation I have seen result in a fairly serious collision was the case of a car, typically being driven by a young bloke, going about 50mph in a 30 zone crossing a mini roundabout and hitting a car which pulled out in front of him. I did not stop to see the aftermath but I am certain he would have been giving it all that about “it was my right of way, you pulled out in front of me” and so forth. If you approach too fast then other drivers do not have time to see you coming and they will pull out, because when they looked it was clear. You must give others time to react to you or when you hit them it will be your fault not theirs.

Rant over – that is all.

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