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We recently talked about some changes the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism was making to street signs ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but it seems they are not content with superficial changes. They have apparently started looking into the plausibility of introducing signal-less roundabouts to Japan, something that could have drivers feeling very grumpy.

The ministry established an expert panel on September 4 to perform a feasibility study into roundabouts.

For our readers who might not have seen them, a roundabout is a kind of circular intersection where traffic flows continuously around a center island. Drivers must merge into the circle, giving way to those who are already on it, and then turn off at their exit. Because you have to slow down or stop in order to merge into the circle, roundabouts are considered a safer option to stoplight intersections, where full-speed collisions can result in death and serious injury. Roundabouts also allow traffic to keep on flowing smoothly when there is no traffic ahead as, although drivers are required to reduce their speed, there is no need to come to a complete stop if the road is clear.

In earthquake-prone Japan, the lack of a signal has the additional benefit that traffic can flow normally even during a blackout, making evacuation easier.

However, since the ring shape limits the number of cars that can enter the intersection, roundabouts are not feasible where there is a lot of traffic. Their tendency to get really snarled up when it’s busy has lead some drivers to passionately detest the things, as the vociferous complaints on groups like I Hate Roundabouts will attest.

For now, the expert panel is just compiling a report about the reduction of accident rates and social changes in countries that have introduced roundabouts, so it remains to be seen if the roundabout will become commonplace in Japan. Considering how slowly Japanese traffic flows anyway, it’s hard to know if drivers would even notice.

Source: Yomiuri Online
Images: USDOT, Grumpy Cat