RICKTER SCALE: Doing cartwheels over the roundabout

It took a while to take a shine to the new roundabout,

By Rick Stiebel

It took a while to take a shine to the new roundabout, but that’s probably another example of a failure to embrace change with the same enthusiasm I had when I was younger.

When we first moved to Sooke in the dawn’s early glow of the new millennium in 2000, one of the things I liked most was being able to say I live in a town with only one traffic light.

But, despite the clouds of dust, the impossible to time delays, the hours spent counting flag people and the fear that I may not live long enough to see the completion of a project I thought would take a couple of weeks, I have become a big fan.

Anyone who remembers what it was like rubbernecking while trying to turn against the traffic exiting either of the malls that constitute our downtown core on a weekend appreciates the difference the roundabout makes.

That’s balanced by how fortunate we are that we didn’t end up with a scaled down version of the McTavish Interchange. Which, six years after completion, still has seasoned cabbies hurling curses like it was the second coming of Christy Clark. Or any politician of personal choice, for that matter.

The first roundabout was actually built in 1904 in New York City and was eventually removed after the residents of the day deemed it an unqualified failure. Nevertheless, the principle hasn’t changed much since then, and neither have the three golden rules of navigating roundabouts in a safe and fist-fight-free fashion.

Number one is to reduce speed and choose a lane on your initial approach, despite the fact it seems there’s a growing number of circle jerks who somehow passed their driver’s test that think it’s a license to speed up suddenly in the hopes of entering the roundabout before the person that’s travelling two car lengths closer in the opposite direction.

Secondly, you should enter to right and continue in a counter-clockwise direction,  watching for pedestrians, cyclists and the odd American tourist who may have never encountered this type of traffic-calming phenomenon before. Unless, of course, they’re really old and from New York.

Lastly, use your right turn signal when exiting, although this may be extremely difficult for at least half of the pickup trucks in Sooke that appear to have removed that pesky directional app that used to stick out next to the steering wheel. A little courtesy and common sense goes a long way when you’re going in circles.

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RIck Stiebel is a Sooke resident and semi-retired journalist.