This is one of the world's most complex intersections

Originally published at:

Kids! Big Ben…Parliament…Again!


I hope they’ll keep track of actual traffic throughput and accident count for a while. This seems for me to be the sort of thing in which computer models do not correspond with real life, because: brain lock.


It was really difficult to interpret the image because they are driving on the “wrong” side. It continued to be difficult after realizing my mistake because my brain kept “correcting” me as I mentally traversed the roundabout.

I’d be curious to learn if other people have had difficulty driving in England (or Australia?) because of the human tendency to revert back to what for us is typically rather unconscious behavior (as Jaynes suggested). On more than one occasion I have found myself cruising in the “passing lane” on a two-lane highway after spending hours on the interstate, until my wife noticed and yelled at me…


Most compound roundabouts like this have a much larger central roundabout - which makes the whole thing less intimidating, and gives you more thinking time between junctions.

Swindon’s is the only one I’m aware of where the central roundabout is so small, and so flat. The result is a sea of cars all confidently whizzing around in apparently random motion…


I hate roundabouts. They always feel like:


Of course, the picture in the main article is not the Swindon Magic Roundabout. You can tell because it’s fairly green and leafy, and not windwept and desolate.

This is the real thing:

And I’m sure this is an example of “safety through confusion”. Nobody is ever really sure about how to attack this junction, so people slow down and think about what they’re doing. Sneaky, that.


Well, it’s been in use since 1972…


It’s been there since 1972, so I would imagine they have some reasonable data by now (and would have removed it if there were an increase in accidents since UK has become the world’s #1 nanny state over those years).


I grew up in the UK and learned to drive there. Moved to Canada in 1985 and US in 1988. For the last 12 years I’ve been traveling to Australia and NZ as well as the UK fairly regularly so I tend to alternate my driving from right to left and back.

In my personal experience it just makes me more vigilant since I have to check internally and be aware which side of the road is correct. This is helped by driving a car set up properly for that orientation - getting your head around driving a British car in France is a whole other difficulty setting.

It’s not an easy thing - it takes a day or so to get reacquainted with the left or right side driving and then it becomes automatic (to me). I suspect it’s much more challenging for people who are out of their comfort zone infrequently. I know NZ in particular has a big problem with wrong-side drivers, particularly when they have just got off a 13 hour flight and picked up a car or camper van. I’ve noticed in recent years that they are putting arrows on the road indicating the correct side to drive on after intersections and parking lot exits


I thought that first image in the article had a familiar look to it. I think that’s probably from Cities: Skylines, a city simulation game.



It sure seems like it would be really weird going back and forth driving different like that.
I watch Top Gear and those guys go from driving in the UK to Mainland European roads (and sometimes in the USA) and all I can think of is that I know it would mess with my brain. And I’m a pretty confident driver.


looks like something made in cities skylines


I suspect it’s something similar to being bilingual - if you could learn it early enough it would be natural Unfortunately we don’t learn to drive at a young enough age. So I’m as bilingual a driver as an adult can become.

Maybe there are some of the benefits of bilingualism to it as well (wish my language facilities were good enough to know)


Good God! I’ve heard nothing but bad about that game, but that’s spectacular!

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Yeah, when I see roundabouts I get the willies in the same way as when you pick up a rock and see bugs scurrying all over.


Sure takes up a lot of space though

Exactly. 45 years. I remember well experimenting with going round it on my Ducati back in the mid-70s. Good fun if you like that sort of thing.

For scary roundabouts you need Hangar Lane Gyratory, often voted the most frightening roundabout in London and sometimes the UK. On a motorbike, a breeze. In a hybrid or a standard auto, a breeze. In a manual which for some unaccountable reason my countrymen seem to prefer, a serious pain in the left wrist.

Compared to a cloverleaf junction or a British motorway interchange? I think not.


That’s a brilliant illustration of just how wasteful interchanges are compared to roundabouts.

My city recently completed a massive interchange between the new ring road and a major highway - it’s incredible. The thing uses more land than a small town.