Throttle Therapy looks at roundabouts: It’s enough to make you dizzy.

Navigating roundabouts sounds easy in theory but get more complicated in practice. Throttle therapy takes a spin from a biker's perspective.

Britt Santowski has been riding since she was 25, and served as a Chief Instructor with the Vancouver Island Safety Council, where she taught for nine years.

Britt Santowski has been riding since she was 25, and served as a Chief Instructor with the Vancouver Island Safety Council, where she taught for nine years.

According to the BC’s Ministry of Transportation information website, it’s a simple four-step process: You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out ….

Oh, no wait, that’s mama-mode, not motorcycle-mama mode. It actually goes like this:

  1. Approach
  2. Yield
  3. Enter
  4. Exit

They even have an “All About Roundabouts” video, showing you that you only have to use your signal lights when you exit the circle.

In the first video, DriveWise instructor Seann Wells says, “I don’t have to signal because I have no choice but to go right. But I will signal at my exit.”

Technically, he’s correct. You don’t have to signal in because it is akin to a curve in the road and you have no choice but to travel in that direction.

Wells smoothly enters the traffic circle and then executes a right hand exit, with appropriate signalling.

What’s missing from this clip is the conversion of what used to be a simple left-hand turn.

Let’s travel back in time to the simple four-way intersection. Executing a left-hand turn was pretty straight forward: Signal left to  turn left (duh), and remember to yield to the vehicle on your right.

Things get complicated when you plunk in another circular road over what used to be a standard four-way stop. Technically the vehicle operator is now executing a series of left- and right-hand turns to do what used to be a single-operation right turn, straight through, or left turn. To complicate things further, you now have to yield to the vehicle on your left (the ones coming at you), as the vehicles in the circle have the right-of-way.

When I am in a traffic circle, I signal through each “intersection” — defined as a point where roadways meet. In other words, at every possible entry and exit point, I either signal left (to enter, or continue in the traffic circle) or right (to exit).

Why?

Because as a motorcyclist, one of the most important things you MUST do to ensure your safety is to be precise when it comes to signalling your intention.

Sloppy signalling, as many accidents and near accidents testify, will be to your detriment. Precise signalling, whether mechanical or physical, helps communicate your intention.

A shoulder check, for example, communicates an intention depending on when you use it. When in motion, it typically signals a lane-change; when at a stop, it typically signals “I’m going to make sure the intersection is safe before I move off.”

Flashing your brake-lights, another example, communicates to a tailgater that they are too close for your comfort; or, it forewarns the vehicle behind you that your intention is to stop when that yellow light turns red.

On the flip side, signalling left on the Pat Bay just leaving Victoria, when your intent is to exit in Sidney, will in all likelihood get you into an accident.

I, for one, give a happy nod to the ministry for bringing in traffic circles. These circles really do eliminate those fatal-for-motorcyclists T-bone crashes, and they blessedly keep traffic moving. Traffic circles are a thing of great beauty.

Now all we need to do is to retrain our brain when it comes to navigating these former simple intersections that once required only one signal. They are no longer simple intersections and should not be treated as such. They are a separate roadway, where you signal in and signal out.

Yes, a roundabout is simple — and even beautiful — once you rewire your brain. And until then, It’s enough to make you dizzy.

 

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