I drive through the Armdale Rotary several times a day. Before I moved, I was worried about the Rotary; it had a reputation for being a traffic nightmare. After two or three trips through it, I relaxed. Even in rush hour, there is never more than a 30 minute delay added to one's commute. This is trivial; try driving in Montreal, Toronto, or London during rush nour and then tell me the Rotary is a traffic nightmare.
The people who think the Rotary doesn't work are the ones who rarely use it and don't understand how it works. They have Rotary-phobia. This is the fault of the HRM, which posts signs that make no sense. At some entrances to the Rotary, there is a Yield sign; at others, there are not. There is a "No stopping on the Rotary sign" that, if followed, would result in multi-car pile-ups because the people entering from St. Margaret's Bay Road rarely even slow down. And nor are they directed to. The traffic light at the St. Margaret's Bay Road entrance to the Rotary is a red light with two green arrows. According to all our driver's education lessons, this sign means "Go ahead if you're going in the directions of the arrows; if not, stop." This gives Rotary newbies entering from St. Margaret's Bay Road the false impression that they have the right of way if they are going in the direction of the arrows. What the HRM *wants* that sign to mean is "Stop, then, follow the arrows when it's safe to do so." Why on earth would the HRM put up a sign on the Rotary that means one thing everywhere else in the world, and is meant to mean something completely different on that one little on-ramp? I've seen countless near-misses as a result of this nonsensical signage. I have called the HRM traffic authority about this problem, and was told to leave a message, which was never returned. So much for responsive municipal government.
A Yield sign at each and every entrance on the Rotary would actually make sense. Let's try that first and then think about spending $3.3 million. And if we do elect to spend that money, I vote it goes to better public transit, including a ferry (or a bridge) across the Arm.
I am originally from the UK, where the traditional roundabout system (i.e. those on the roundabout have right of way) works very well. But London drivers are different from Haligonian drivers. I am skeptical that such a system would work here. People here are not used to barging their way into heavy traffic, which busy roundabouts like the Marble Arch in London require. They are relatively timid and very accommodating on the roads, which I find refreshing. But if we move to the traditional roundabout system, those polite and timid drivers will cause backups all the way up Quinpool, Chebucto, Joseph Howe, St. Margaret's Bay, and Herring Cove because they aren't bolshy enough to force their way onto the Rotary. When we have a car culture in which drivers stop for pedestrians to cross in the middle of Quinpool Road, do we really expect that they'll suddenly turn into lean, mean models of driving efficiency once they hit the Rotary?
The system of taking turns is very Haligonian. It works well for those of us who have learned to ignore the confusing and inconsistent signage, and figure out the negotiated order that is the Armdale Rotary. Here is how that order works when people know what they are doing: (1) You approach the Rotary. (2) You yield to the first car on the Rotary. (3) You go, while the next car on the Rotary yields to you.
The HRM should put up clear, sensible signs that accurately reflect this working order to those who rarely use the Rotary, so they too know what to do. Then, perhaps, the grousing about the Rotary will stop, and those of us who actually use it can get on with our commutes.
By Emma Whelan