4 Way Stop Vs Roundabout – Mythbusters

Mythbusters takes an auto-centric look at the performance of 4 way stops and roundabouts. Which intersection design performs better (for auto traffic)?

Clip from Mythbusters season 12 episode 12 Traffic Tricks. Only aired in Australia on SBS One, August 3, 2013.

Matty Lang

About Matty Lang

Matty Lang has been interested in land use, transportation, and cities since he fell in love with Paris, France while studying there in 1998-1999. He is a filmmaker living in Minneapolis. He loves film, bicycling, and basketball. Follow him: Vimeo | @MattyLangMSP | Facebook

6 thoughts on “4 Way Stop Vs Roundabout – Mythbusters

  1. Lee Roberts

    I’ve been living in Australia for the last few years (I’m from Seattle), and I agree with the Mythbusters’ findings. Roundabouts really are wonderful for car drivers. The ones I experience on a daily basis are, however, completely horrible for everyone else. Maybe someone has come up with clever ways to get pedestrians and cyclists through roundabouts safely and efficiently – that is very far from the case in Hobart, Tasmania. Maybe it’s just another example of the disregard that Tasmanian drivers (and traffic and civil engineers) show towards bikes and peds, but they feel like deathtraps. I would avoid roundabouts like the plague when I’m biking or walking – except that they are impossible to avoid since they’re used so frequently here.

    1. Matty LangMatty Lang Post author

      Hi Lee. I’ve seen many different designs of roundabouts from various places across the country. Traditionally, most designs are not welcoming to people walking or biking, however, better design options have become available if engineers choose to add people walking and biking into the mix of things they consider in design and performance evaluations.

  2. Evan RobertsEvan

    I am pro-roundabout for both cars *and* bike/pedestrian users. Done well — significant qualifier — they are better for traffic through-flow and can achieve good pedestrian safety outcomes.

    The roundabout at Minnehaha Park is a good example (not perfect) of how it can be done. Median islands for pedestrians and road narrowing as cars approach the roundabout mean that traffic is going slowly and naturally notices pedesterians. Slightly raising the crossing surface for pedestrians also helps.

    At busy four-way stops I think most drivers are way too focused on “do I have the right of way” to really care about pedestrians.

    If you’re a cyclist on the road the narrower width should encourage you to take the lane — you’re going as fast as cars round the roundabout anyway.

    But they can be done badly, so I get why the prevailing sentiment on this site is roundabout skeptical. But I’m a little sad about it.

    1. Rosa

      for me at least it’s less anti-roundabout, as “neutral about roundabouts except that I’d have liked something else better.” I live *right* by 17th Avenue and the tiny roundabouts aren’t very helpful, where some stop signs or lights or something at 26th, 28th, 38th, and 42nd streets would have been very very helpful. It’s not the roundabouts themselves, it’s that they went in at non-problem intersections. Tiny roundabouts on 26th & 28th street would be a huge improvement, because just about anything would be. Instead we got the tiny roundabouts at streets where the 4 way stops have always been treated as 4way rollthroughs anyway.

  3. Xan

    Worst biking experience of my life, the UK. Worst part of the worst experience, roundabouts. And everyone is driving on the wrong side of the road.

    Best biking experience, Rotterdam. I don’t recall how the roundabouts were there, which probably means I didn’t almost die experiencing them.

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