Riding guru Andy Morrison on the pleasures and potential pitfalls of fast circles
Treated with respect roundabouts can be fun but, since they’re invariably swarming with other traffic and widespread indecision, they can also be pretty hazardous. As with any potential hazard, the approach is all-important. Rush in and you won’t have time to take in all the detail; following traffic, traffic on the roundabout or approaching it from other directions, signing, lane advice and road surface condition.
When it comes to choosing your line, if there’s other traffic in close proximity then it can pay to stick to the lane they’d expect you to use. Get original and somebody will collect you for a mascot. Also consider the road surface. Two common problems are fuel spillages, specifically diesel – which is slippery as hell in the wet and doesn’t evaporate quickly like petrol – and general dust and debris which congregates where car tyres rarely pass.
Depending on which side the fuel filler cap is, centrifugal forces means potential spillages on the right on the way into and of roundabouts and on the left on the roundabout itself. Sticking to the left can put you right in the diesel riding through the roundabout, while being too eager to overtake slower traffic on the way out can land you in trouble with the debris that builds up in the middle of the road on each of the exits.
Roundabouts with a particular crash history are often surfaced with anti-skid material that’s a light tan in colour. This surface offers fantastic levels of grip, even in the wet, but this grip is only available where the road has been swept by traffic. The surface uses a very fine aggregate that collects just off the general traffic flow line and can be almost impossible to see, being the same colour as the road surface. Go off-line here, particularly if it’s recently been re-surfaced, and you go from the most fantastic level of grip to virtually none at all.
Where circumstances permit – i.e. you’ve got the thing to yourself – you can use alternative lines to avoid spillages, get a quicker entry and allow a much faster exit.
If your view is blocked across the island (so you can't see traffic coming round the island) and to the left (so you can't see traffic pulling onto the roundabout) consider keeping to the right hand side of the approach lane all the way up to the "Give Way" markings; it'll give you a better view in both directions.
In particular, check the view to your left- if you can't see the driver of a car waitinng to emerge, he can't see you - and you can't apply his brake for him! That's the big danger on roundabouts.
Watch out if there are other vehicles heading in the same direction. Don't use the roundabout as an opportunity to pass, but wait till they are off the roundabout - I got taken out years ago by a driver who cut across three lanes to turn right from the far left at the very last second when she realised she'd mistaken her exit. It's a good idea to stagger, so that if they cut the corners, you won't be run off the road.
Never forget that a roundabout is a junction - and you wouldn't deliberately speed up through a crossroads, would you? The straighter line should be used to give you a greater margin on the EXIT as you power off the roundabout, NOT on the way in - you may have to stop suddenly and more speed and lean angle at this point are NOT your friend!
Posted: 08/09/2010 at 09:00
Posted: 09/09/2010 at 12:25
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