I saw this video the other day from Myth Busters experimenting which was more effective - 4-way stop signs or roundabouts. I was quite interested in this because I thought there might be some funny scenes. I recalled my only time encountering a roundabout in Toronto. A local decided to drive right across the grass verge in the middle!
As I watched the 4-way stop experiment start I was thinking of something we discussed at PSL last year. Although that was a real life situation with the addition of traffic lights and police officers. The lesson was about the damage we can cause by inflicting help on others, something I’ve previously written about in my angry scrum master post.
The drivers doing the Myth Busters experiment looked a little awkward and clunky but yet they did pretty well – no casualties.
I was particularly interested in watching North American drivers handle the roundabout test. To be honest I was half expecting F1 style smashes and such. It seemed flow was more constant with less hesitation. I was quite surprised by this.
The results of the Myth Busters experiment? The roundabout was more effective.
“Give people direction and clear boundaries”
The roundabout is a simple physical mechanism, usually with a lump/mound/grass. Landscape type things that humans have a natural ability to navigate around. It’s easy to use for most people. The North American team proved the ability to grasp roundabouts like a pro with 30 minutes practice. It’s user friendly in a nutshell.
Stop signs need a little more ability. They must have the good placement, lighting. The driver must have good vision, the ability to read and understand the language. Also, people can speed through most 4-way stops without impediment. Physical roundabouts make that a more unattractive proposition. The roundabout increases cautious people’s confidence in how safe it is to approach and manoeuvre.
For me this just adds to the proof that for most people all that’s needed is direction, safety and simple clear boundaries. Beyond that support people in asking for the things they need – don’t tell them. Or build complex processes or rules to “help” – they often do the opposite.