The southeast end of town has had roundabouts for awhile now, and all of them tend to be on fairly calm streets. But the north side is starting to get several new roundabouts and they’re predominantly located along arterials, which means more traffic and fewer experienced users. It’s a recipe for confusion and possibly accidents. So I thought a quick tutorial on the safest way to traverse a roundabout might be in order.
As always, a bicyclist is legally allowed to operate as either a vehicle user or as a pedestrian.
Ride like a motorist
If you’re going to operate according to vehicle rules, then as you enter the intersection, you need to start acting as if you’re in a car. This means moving from the bike lane to the traffic lane. Center yourself so that you’re located either in the midpoint of the lane or slightly to the left (where you would be positioned if you were in the drivers seat in a car). Then use the lane as you would if you were in a car — wait till the way is clear, then proceed, and signal when you’re going to exit.
Be on the alert for motorists entering the roundabout. Though you’re more visible in the center of the lane than you would be if you were hugging the right hand side, that still doesn’t mean that they’ll see you. So if you see someone coming and they don’t seem to be slowing down, use caution. Make eye contact. Perhaps give them a little wave. Do what you can to make yourself visible, but also be ready to slow or stop if needed. (You’re not supposed to stop in a roundabout, but if it’s a situation where you’re either going to crash or stop, stopping is preferable.)
Ride like a pedestrian
If taking the lane makes you uncomfortable, then stay out of the roundabout and use the sidewalk instead. This means you’ll be behaving like a pedestrian. Unlike some other states, in Colorado you don’t have to get off and walk your bike if you’re on the sidewalk or crossing at a crosswalk.
The key to staying safe is not riding so fast that people looking for pedestrians won’t see you. Let me word that another way. When someone is moving quickly, you have to look much farther down the road to see and anticipate them meeting up with you at an intersection. But if you’re on the sidewalk, then they’re not going to be looking far enough down the way to see that you’re coming. This increases the likelihood of an accident. It also means that if you’re passing pedestrians, you’re probably freaking them out. Don’t do that. Cyclists don’t like when cars buzz past them at a fast speed. So we shouldn’t do it to pedestrians either. It’s just not nice.
So as you approach the roundabout, there should be a sidewalk ramp that leads from the bike lane to a pathway around the outside of the roundabout. Enter this and slow down enough that traffic in the roundabout can anticipate you and you can be aware and responsive to them. You are legally allowed to ride across the cross walk. You don’t have to walk. But you also don’t want to dart out in front of a car, so use caution.
Driving in a roundabout
If you’re in a car and you’re traversing a roundabout, be aware of peds and bicyclists. Be clear about where you’re going to be exiting by using your turn signal just before your turn. And most important of all, slow down. Speed limits are reduced in roundabouts for a reason. You don’t have to stop (unless yielding to other traffic requires it), but you do have to slow down.
Stay safe out there!