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4:03pm on Saturday, 16th July, 2005:

Roundabout Signs


Colchester is famed locally for its obsession with roundabouts, which it has been exhibiting for years. Here are my favourite three signs:

This is one of a pair, known as "the double mini-roundabouts" (there are actually another two pairs of them practically adjacent to other near Tollgate, but those are more recent). When my dad took me to university for the first time (in 1978), his first encounter with these double mini-roundabouts was met with astonished dismay. This particular one (which is the second of the pair that he met) was the worst because you come off a dual carriageway at it, which unless you know is going to happen can lead you to be in the wrong lane. Oh, and all the exits from the roundabout have zebra crossings on them, too, just to keep you concentrating.

This is the Greenstead Roundabout, which you'll meet if you go to Essex University from any direction other than Clacton. It's five mini-roundabouts in one, so you can go round it the wrong way if you like. If I'm coming from the university I do indeed do this, as the right way round it's blocked due to an inconvenient pedestrian in combination with another pair of roundabouts in very close proximity (100m or so). Originally, this was one big roundabout, but they switched to a "magic roundabout" format many years ago, I think it was the third in the country to go like this, after one in Hemel Hempstead and another in Swindon.

This is my favourite road sign in Colchester. Imagine seeing that for the first time! It applies to the infamous North Station Roundabout, and is only about a third of the overall junction (you can see what it applies to here). After you've sliced through the middle of the roundabout, you come immediately upon another one that's been similarly butchered. It's really quite poetic in roundabout design terms. It's only been open for a year or so, but twice so far I have been driving round it and met a car coming at me head on, its having turned left in the wrong place. Here's what I mean:

I've seen an articulated lorry collide with a car there, too, because the lorry's driver (who was Polish, with his steering wheel on the left of the cab) just seemed to give up. There was so much information heading into his head from the wrong angles saying stupid things that he just decided to drive round and trust to fate. Sadly, fate wasn't on his side that day (or, more specifically, wasn't on the side of the driver whose vehicle he rammed).

For many years (like 10 or 12), we had a pointless roundabout with only one road in and one road out, but I don't have a photograph of that. They finally added a third road out last year to build a new estate off it. I expect wannabe roundabout designers will be given the chance to make another such pointless roundabout in Colchester sooner or later, though; I'll endeavour to blog it if I come across it.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).