Burgers and beavers and roundabouts, oh my — people are angry again

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blankNot since the much-dreaded Burger King reared its weirdly disturbing crowned head on Grant Avenue have Winters residents been this enraged.

People are PISSED

Step aside, downtown hotel with no on-site parking and stupid piebald beaver — there’s a new Big Issue in town, and it has some folks foaming at the mouth. It’s the evil, outrageous, ridiculous roundabout, a monument to government waste and absolute proof that the city council and staff are destroying the entire town, all for their personal gain and glory.

Or, it’s just an ordinary traffic-slowing measure.

Seriously — why are people so freaked out about making a slight, gentle swing to the right as they drive along their merry way? If you’re unable to navigate a roundabout, you shouldn’t be driving.

Also: Do you people ever get out of town? There are roundabouts (also known as traffic circles) all over the place. Several right down the road in Davis. Some really huge, fancy ones up in Truckee. Plenty of opportunities for the roundabout-phobic to practice.

Me, I think roundabouts are kind of fun. I could squeal “Wheeee!” going around them, but I’m stingy with my “Wheeee!”s. I save them up for really cool stuff, like galloping along on horseback or speeding rollercoasters or finding a great Cabernet on sale. I’m not wasting a perfectly good “Wheeee” on a roundabout. Maybe a “meh.” Maybe not even that. Roundabouts just don’t get me going. I’ll save up all my lovely road rage for Prius drivers who pull into the fast lane and then poke along at a smug, stubborn 55 mph. (I hate you people. Just sayin’.)

Unlike tomato trucks that jackknife and spill a sea of bouncing, splattering red orbs in your path or pheasants that dart from the brush and end up as messy hood ornaments, or tires that blow out and send you spinning, or ice, or heavy rain, or blinding fog, or huge potholes that you don’t see in time, or knuckleheads who text and drive, a roundabout is the most predictable thing on earth. You know it’s coming, it never changes (unlike a stoplight, which can turn hurry-up-and-hit-the-accelerator yellow at any moment)… the only thing more predictable than a roundabout is your own driveway. Nonetheless, some Winters folks are just losing their minds over having to drive through it.

(The line to turn in your driver’s licenses forms on the right.)

When I announced the new roundabout on the Express Facebook wall recently, it was met with a rain of wrath and the calling for the heads of public officials. You’d think the city had installed a public execution platform for puppies.


It’s not that big of a deal.

I figured folks would discover this after making a slight sweep right a few times while passing through Grant Avenue at Walnut Lane and would get over it, but no. Just last week, someone messaged me and said, “We need a story on how to drive through a roundabout.”

God help us.

OK, fine.

I’ll write about it.

After that, I’ll write about how to operate a spoon.


All right, roundabout haters, let’s get over this once and for all. Here’s how it works:

As you approach the roundabout, slow down and yield to the traffic already in the circle. Stop if necessary, and when there’s a safe opening, simply proceed and flow right in; exit the roundabout wherever you choose. Do not stop in the roundabout — you have the right of way. Yield to any pedestrians in the crosswalk, and because there’s no bike lane in the roundabout, treat bicyclists as you would another vehicle.

It’s that simple people. If you know how to enter a freeway, you already have the yielding and merging skills to do this.  Roundabouts are even easier. On a freeway onramp, you must get up to speed and merge with cars already moving much faster. If you’re the proud holder of a California Driver’s License, theoretically, you’ve already demonstrated mastery of this skill or you wouldn’t have passed your driving test. If, however, you’ve lost that ability to safely merge onto a freeway, as I pointed out before — the line to turn in your driver’s license is on the right.

As for the necessity of the roundabout right there, consider its location and history. I used to live on a street off Walnut Lane, and turning left onto Grant Avenue was often downright tricky. There’ve been plenty of accidents there, and many years ago, following a particularly nasty one, I contacted Caltrans (which actually owns Grant Avenue, not the City of Winters, because it’s part of State Highway 128) and told them they needed a traffic light at that intersection. Their response was it “didn’t meet the formula.” Upon further prodding, I discovered that “the formula” in Caltrans-speak means “fatalities.” Simply put, until enough people were killed at that intersection, Caltrans would not install a stoplight. That the city managed to get a roundabout approved at all, without benefit of a pile of corpses, is actually a bit of a coup.

Think about it. Would you really have preferred a stoplight there, just a stone’s throw from the one at Railroad and Grant? Do you really want to hit a series of red lights when you’re hurrying to get out of town? (Remember Murphy’s Law of Red Lights: The more late you are, the more red lights you’ll hit.) Me, I’d much rather sail through a roundabout than sit fuming behind a line of cars at a red light. Followed by another. And another.

In case you’re still not convinced, a roundabout is better for air quality because an idling car produces more exhaust than a moving car. Mother Nature approves.

So, have we diffused this topic adequately? Can we get back to being enraged over stuff that actually matters? I hope so.

Now, get out there and practice your roundabout navigation skills, angry people.

And don’t forget to squeal, “Wheeeee!”

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