Roundabouts, which many assume to be the “holy grail” of traffic safety, might actually be less safe for cyclists than normal intersections. This is evident from new research by the VIA tourist office, AD reports.
This particularly applies to roundabouts in built-up areas. Almost 12 percent of all accidents that involve a bicycle or e-bike take place there, despite roundabouts making up only 0.6 percent of all intersections. Much of this has to do with the added confusion caused by e-bikes, which are gaining popularity, VIA traffic expert Erik Donkers told AD.
With e-bikes, cyclists no longer move at the same speed, making it more difficult for drivers to gauge whether they have time to enter the intersection. “A roundabout is more complicated anyway: as a road user you have four conflict points,” Donkers explained. “If a car hits a bicycle on a roundabout, even at low speed, things quickly go wrong.”
The VIA research contrasts sharply with long-standing opinions on roundabouts, according to AD. This type of intersection has been called the “very best invention ever in infrastructure” and is generally thought to be very safe for cyclists.
However, other research agrees with the VIA’s conclusions. Leanne van Bentem, bicycle expert at Sweco engineering consultancy, told AD that her master’s thesis research on bicycle safety had similar findings in Haarlem. “I didn’t expect roundabouts to be less safe at all,” she said –– but they turned out to be more dangerous to cyclists than ordinary intersections.
Donkers said the first step should be to change the right of way at roundabouts, giving cars priority. “Reversing the right of way gives the cyclist more responsibility and possibly prevents a false sense of safety,” he explained. This could cause more confusion if some roundabouts give cars priority and others do not, said the Fietsersbond. However, the solution is already reducing accidents in some municipalities, like Súdwest-Fryslân.