I approached the First Street off ramp on Friday morning with great trepidation.
What would I find?
A battlefield littered with the dead and the dying? A blasted hellscape strewn with vehicular wreckage?
Perhaps gridlocked traffic, ripe for road rage.
As I crested the bridge taking me eastward over Highway 29, I saw the fearsome scene.
A tiny little roundabout, ringed with construction cones. It was so new that the cement curb gleamed white in the morning sun, and the unlandscaped middle nothing but a patch of dirt.
In seconds, and one quick wiggle of the steering wheel, I was through.
Wait. That was it?
I learned to drive in Washington, D.C. which cannot be rivaled in its brutal driving style. It beats even New York in the pure, raw, ego-driven spite of behavior behind the wheel.
I looked back over my shoulder, watching cars zipping through, drivers patiently waiting to merge into the circle. No wrecks. No dead pedestrians. No drunken tourists smashing straight across without noticing the markings on the asphalt.
For months, commenters on Facebook had responded to our stories about roundabouts with dire warnings.
“Can’t wait to see the mess they created,” one said.
“I am going with 3 crashes by day 3...any takers,” said another.
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“It’s going to be such a great sobriety test for all the tourists. CHP will probably just perch right in the middle,” said a third.
Is it possible to be thankful for a long commute? I am beginning to think so.
Not to say that roundabouts don’t have fans too, including a guy from out of town who seems to spend all his time online preaching the gospel of the circular intersections.
“Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Visit www.iihs.org for safety facts,” he wrote.
I’ll admit that I really did feel some worry approaching the circle on Friday, and not just because of the steady drumbeat of doom and gloom from Facebook. While I have successfully used roundabouts in several places, including suburban Maryland and the campus of UC Davis, I am far more familiar with the traditional boxy traffic light kind of intersection.
So after whizzing through on Friday morning, I felt strange. Transformed somehow.
Roundabouts may just be fun.
At lunch, I went back. Still no wreckage, no mangled bodies. Just traffic moving smoothly on and off the freeway.
Camping is very much like staying at a luxury hotel, minus all the tedious comfortable beds, private restrooms, and room service.
For good measure, I went around five or six times, as two nearby construction workers watched in bemusement.
When I got back to the office, I mentioned how I wished I could have filmed my round-and-round adventure on the roundabout.
“I’ll hold the camera,” intrepid reporter Jennifer Huffman said.
So we hopped in my Jeep and hit the roundabout again. Round and round we went as Jennifer filmed.
She confessed to being slightly seasick after the second or third spin around, but she agreed that the little circle was a lot of fun.
I can’t wait for the other two roundabouts in the complex to open. I know what I’ll be doing at lunch on beautiful days.