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The first roundabout

A roundabout is a circular road junction with traffic flowing clockwise along the circulatory carriageway around a central island. Traffic wishing to enter the roundabout must give way to traffic already on it. In parts of the Midlands and the North West of England, the junctions are colloquially known as islands, not to be confused with pedestrian refuges. Elsewhere the term island refers to the central area within the junction.

The first roundabout in Great Britain was built at Sollershott Circus in Letchworth Garden City in 1909.

Design Principles

Roundabouts are designed in accordance with TD16 of DMRB. Key features of the design include entry deflection, where the geometry of the roundabout is designed to slow vehicles down on the approach to the roundabout. Capacity of the roundabout is dependent on its size, usually measured across the Inscribed Circle Diameter (the largest circle that can be drawn touching the outer edge of the circulatory carriageway; on the entry width of the approach roads; and on the width of the circulatory carriageway (usually 1.0 to 1.2 times the widest entry width). Other factors include the flare length on each approach road (which is a measure of widening of each approach) and the entry angle and entry radius of each approach road.

There are a number of forms of roundabout, namely:

Normal Roundabout

A normal roundabout on the A405

A normal roundabout has a centre island of at least 4m in diameter (often much bigger), and usually has flared entries to allow two or three vehicles to enter the roundabout at the same time. They may be found in urban and rural areas, and are often the junction of choice between rural main roads.

A compact roundabout

Compact Roundabout

Compact roundabouts are found in urban areas, and have a small kerbed island, often less than 4m in diameter and with single lane approaches. They often have overrun strips around the central island in order to allow larger vehicles to negotiate the junction.

A compact roundabout on an entrance to A3 at Horndean


Mini Roundabout

A mini-roundabout on the B2140

A mini-roundabout is a "priority to the right" control, used at junctions where a kerbed island cannot be accommodated. They usually consist of a painted central island, sometimes slightly raised, with arrows to indicate the direction of circulation.

Signalised Roundabout

A signalised roundabout is based on a conventional roundabout, but with one or more entries signalised to control entry. Signals may be part time or full time operation, and are used to increase capacity of the junction, allowing busier roads a higher level of priority at the junction. Some signalised roundabouts are conversions of existing roundabouts, whereas others are built with signals from the outset. Larger signalised roundabouts almost always have full-time signals as wide entries and wide circulatory carriageways make it very unlikely that the roundabout would comply with deflection requirements for an unsignalised roundabout.

There are many examples of signalised roundabouts, for example Oldings Corner.

Grade Separated Roundabout

A grade separated roundabout is a large roundabout, with one or more roads passing over or under the roundabout, and connected to it by means of slip roads. The roundabout may be signalised. As a large roundabout, vehicle speeds can be high, and the roundabout may not fully comply with roundabout deflection standards.

An example of a grade separated roundabout is Priory Wood Roundabout

An example of a large signalised grade separated roundabout is Bignells Corner.

Dutch Style Roundabout

A Dutch Style Roundabout is a normal roundabout, with with a dedicated one-way cycle track around the perimeter about 5 meters further out than the main carriageway. Where the cycle track crosses the arms of the side roads a parallel crossing is provided to provide cyclists and pedestrians with priority over motor traffic. Cycle provisions are also provided on all arms which give way to pedestrians on exiting and entering the roundabout. The UK's first one opened in Cambridge during July 2020, and several other counties are planning to install some.

The only* example of a Dutch style roundabout is Fendon Road Roundabout

  • As of July 2021

See also

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