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Give the roundabout a good spin

"Now entering the roundabout of public opinion are four vehicles, one coming from each direction:Driver 1: The World Traveler - Has seen and/or driven roundabouts in Europe and elsewhere; thinks they're swell once people understand them. Comment: If the French can live with roundabouts, so can you clowns in your SUVs...Hey! Nice Citroën! (A variant of this group vehemently disagrees, believing that nothing the French might do could possibly be worth copying; also avoids films with subtitles.)Driver 2: The Angry Taxpayer - Owns the road; only wound up at this intersection by mistake. Comment: Stupid #%$&% circle! What kind of #%$&% stupid #%$&% idiots would build such a stupid #%$&% thing?! #%$&%!! #$%#&!!Driver 3: The Passive Motorist - Rarely speeds, always keeps hands in the 10 o'clock-2 o'clock position; not really sure what to do here, but adjusts to most traffic changes without complaint. Comment: Oh, look at this new round thingie. (A variant of this group, the Oblivious Motorist, is too busy talking on his/her cell-phone to notice or contemplate the change; may become The Angry Taxpayer if late for the ferry or pending real estate deal.) Driver 4: The Pedestrian's Friend - May or may not have children at home; isn't much interested in the flow of vehicle traffic, but remains concerned about the safety of students coming and going from campus and the library. Comment: Of course I'll drive you the quarter-mile to school, honey. Get in the mini-van.A fifth person also at the intersection actually walks everywhere, and depending who you believe, may or may not be stuck at the curb.* * * * *The debate over the High School Road/Madison Avenue roundabout - to be resolved, we are told, at tonight's city council meeting - is quintessential Bainbridge.As much about how drivers might react to the change as its actual functionality, it's a collision of anecdote and intuition with the cool calculus of engineering. Some of the letters suggest we have entered a Manichean age - differences of opinion demand moral judgment; those with whom we disagree are not only wrong, they're stupid or bad.We're not sure the sides could ever be reconciled to everyone's satisfaction; the council faces the safe political choice of a signal versus the innovation of the roundabout favored by city engineers. The literature suggests to us that the latter would be safe and effective for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, and we'll endorse it here; after that, it's up to our collective capacity to accept change with a modicum of grace.Which is perhaps the genius of the roundabout - all four directions say Yield. "

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