Alan Clawley takes issue with a recent development on the city’s roads.
Despite an apparent shortage of money the city engineers can still find some to spend on one of their daftest ideas yet – the Hamburger Roundabout. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a look at the one on Ladywood Middleway where it joins Icknield Port Road. Once a sensible, ordinary, self-regulated roundabout, it now bristles with traffic lights that do little to improvement the flow of traffic.
I seem to recall that roundabouts were invented as a way of dispensing with traffic lights. It was left to the skill and judgement of drivers to enter the flow and weave their way around by negotiating with their fellow road-users. Traffic already on the roundabout had priority and you had to wait for a sensible gap before joining in. Traffic lights negate the whole idea and the Hamburger Roundabout only makes matters worse by cutting a major road right through the middle. Because it crosses the gyrating traffic at two points it has to have traffic lights.
The Hamburger Roundabout looks like the brain-child of a road engineer with not enough real work to do and with a touching faith in computer-controlled traffic light systems. We can look forward to their introduction on all the remaining roundabouts on the Ring Road or Middleway as part of its so-called improvement.
Hamburgers are really a cheap version of the flyover or flyunder that carries the major road over or under roundabouts that carry minor roads. No need for traffic lights here. There are plenty of examples built during the last century when road engineers ruled the roost; the Swan at Yardley on the A45, at Five Ways between Hagley Road and Broad Street and Hockley Flyover. No need for traffic lights on these roundabouts.
There is no doubt that the volume of traffic has increased over the last few years and many accidents happen at roundabouts, due largely in my view due to a lapse of concentration, or a lack of old-fashioned courtesy. The horn is used on roundabouts not as a warning, but to intimidate other road-users and tell them to get out of the way. Hamburger Roundabouts are no solution. The engineers should either leave roundabouts alone or scrap them altogether. After all, junctions controlled purely by traffic lights work in New York. Why can’t they work in Birmingham?