Not-So-Magic Roundabouts

After finally posting “Crossings” the other day, and after having more roundabout difficulty this week, I went back to the brilliant book “Cyclecraft” (recommended reading for anyone who ever cycles on a road) to see what it said about roundabouts.

[At this point I should say that I’ve tried to contact both Mr Franklin and his publishers, The Stationary Office, for permission to quote the book, but the online form didn’t work and the email bounced respectivel.  So, somewhat tentatively, I’m going to go ahead and just do it.  Mr Franklin, TSO,, if there’s a problem with this then please contact me and I’ll happily remove the content.  I’m hoping that my recommendation to buy this excellent book will cause you to look upon my plagiarism favourably.  Thanks/apologies.]

The book (mine is a less-up-to-date versions) explains the problem of dangerous approaches to roundabouts.  This from the section on “single-lane roundabouts”, where I experience less difficulty:

The greatest danger is that some drivers race a cyclist to the roundabout, cutting sharply across the cyclists path in order to enter.  Drivers often do not realise how great a cyclists speed can be [I love that bit…”how great”!- MR], and as a result there is often insufficient space to complete the overtaking manoeuvre safely, and the cyclist is put at risk…if there is an [entry] island and a driver still overtakes, it can act as a further hazard by creating a squeeze point.

Franklin agrees with the dilemma expressed in my previous post, but has a much better way and less aggressive way of putting it:

The difficulty for a cyclist lies in knowing the intentions of a driver behind. Can you ride normally and comfortably, or you should accelerate or brake in order to prevent or counter a dangerous manoeuvre?

Among other hazards, the book also talks a lot about how it’s dangerous being ON a roundabout and how drivers coming onto the roundabout as you cycle past the other approaches may not see you on a bike:

The biggest danger to cyclists is on the circulating road as you pass an intermediate entry…Frequently drivers fail to cede your right of way at these places, sometimes because they haven’t noticed you.

So I’ve been paying attention while driving up to and on roundabouts in the last few days, thinking about whether or not I would see a cyclist and how I would respond.

Living in, and learning to drive in Swindon, I consider myself to be a bit of a roundabout expert.  Franklin says “In fact, many motorists themselves fear roundabouts”…whereas I take great glee in negotiating the many circular islands of Swindon.  So I often approach roundabouts at speed, using my experience to anticipate the movements of those on the roundabout to get onto and across it as quickly as possible.

But reading Cyclecraft has made me aware of the inherent danger of this type of manoeuvre, especially to cyclists!

It’s fascinating, and it strikes me that it’s probably more important that drivers understand some of what’s in Cyclecraft, than it is that cyclists understand it.

I wonder how much bike-awareness is in modern-day driving lessons and tests, and how much there should be.  Anyone learn to drive recently and care to comment?

Finally, of course, I love Swindon’s “Magic” Roundabout.  But what does Cyclecraft say about it?  Simply this:

Another, rarer, type of multiple roundabout is where there is a ring of mini-roundabouts around a large roundabout which can be travelled in either direction.  These, too, need to be treated with caution.

Mr Franklin, the cyclists of Swindon appreciate your non–specific reference to their holy grail of gyratory systems…and all your wise experience and advice.