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Roundabouts! [Tuesday 1st April 2014 at 11:36 pm]

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[Playing |Thoughtagraph ~ Tacye/Definitive Underground Drum'n'Bass - Disc 1]

Today was my fourth driving lesson, and this time I drove from work before tackling roundabouts for real, and then finishing off by approaching the Quay Street roundabout from another direction.

Oh, and I finally stalled the car. I got flustered in a sequence of lights and turnings early on and found 3rd when I wanted 1st - and that only works if you're driving something like the 3-litre V6 Alfa 75 my mum used to have (which she could happily potter around town using only 3rd gear). Or at least I think I stalled the car - by the time I'd reached for the keys the ECU had apparently twigged that I'd stalled and as soon as I pressed the clutch it restarted the engine. Ford do seem to have cracked the whole stop-start thing.

Anyway, the lesson. We started off with me driving from work, and once I joined the A27 we headed east into Fareham with a succession of lights contriving to change at the most awkward moment possible. Eventually we turned off down Peak Lane (which is where I had the stall - there's two pairs of lights in quick succession with a right turn on the second set, and those contrived to change just as I'd stopped the car). Left into Longmynd Drive with an eek! moment as an oncoming car materialized in the middle of the road just as I turned in at which point I did the natural-but-unhelpful thing and turned too tightly into the corner - fortunately we managed to miss the kerb. We then stopped and went over the main topic for today's lesson: roundabouts.

Now, last week's homework was to look up rule 186 of the Highway Code, which explains how to manoeuvre and signal around them. Or at least, it explains how to do so for left and right exits, but then gives this for intermediate ones:

When taking any intermediate exit, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise

  • select the appropriate lane on approach to and on the roundabout
  • you should not normally need to signal on approach
It's wonderfully vague, isn't it. My instructor then explained what I should really be doing. First off, look at the roundabout as if it is a clock. We're approaching from the bottom, i.e. 6 o'clock, and so the area we're watching for oncoming traffic is 3 to 6. Everyone else is also watching their own 3 to 6 segment, which may or may not overlap with your segment.

Which lane to chose and how to signal depends on where you're going. For any exit to the left of 12 o'clock, you pick the left-hand lane and drive around the outside of the roundabout. For exits to the right of 12 o'clock, you pick the right-hand lane and follow the inside of the roundabout until you are pointing at your exit, at which point you move out into the outer lane and exit on the left-hand lane. This does assume there is space to do so - if not, the safest approach is to go round again and have another go. In all cases you exit on the left-hand lane, not the right-hand one.

This also applies to mini-roundabouts which are merely large painted white circles in the middle of the road - even though there's nothing to physically stop you, you still treat it as an actual roundabout and manoeuvre accordingly. The exception is if you're too big or long to actually make it round and stick to the correct lane, in which case you take your best stab at it. HGVs also might even have to take a different lane on the approach to a roundabout, so if you see an HGV who's not where you'd expect (like in the right-hand lane signalling left), then give him plenty of room. He can't see you if you squeeze up next to him!

Then there's signalling. This depends not only on where you exit is, but when it is in the sequence of exits. For the first and only the first exit (which might be a tiny little one with an unlabelled stub on the sign), you signal left as you approach the roundabout. For exits after 12 o'clock, you signal right as you approach. Unless it's still the first exit (like this little one round the back of Port Solent) in which case you signal left, but usually roundabouts aren't laid out like that. For any other exit you don't signal at all - this include exits directly at 12 o'clock, as your part of the exit isn't after 12. But... once you pass the exit immediately before yours, you then signal left.

This all makes sense if you consider other drivers who are watching their 3 to 6 segment. If he sees someone indicating left then he knows they intend to take the first exit and so won't get in his way. Conversely, if he sees someone queueing in the right-hand lane and indicating right then he knows they intend to go round, and depending on which exit he wants he may be able to go without getting in their way. But if they're not indicating, then they will be going straight and so will block his entry onto the roundabout. Simples!

Of course, then you get road markings. While normally you use the left-hand lane for left or straight and the right-hand lane for right, there may be arrows showing otherwise. In this case you take the lane the arrows show. But you still indicate as before, if for no other reason than the driver to your left (watching you) might not know about the different lane setup.

And there's roundabouts where the positioning rules are different too. This one in Stubbington is offset from the middle. If approaching from err... north-north-east heading south-west then the road markings tell you to use the right-hand lane, and because it's offset you actually take it in a straight line rather than following the curve of the roundabout. And then there's this malarkey by one of the forts where someone has come up with a weird cross between a gyratory and two roundabouts and is one where you might want to exit in the right-hand lane (if you intend to go right at the second roundabout of the pair). She commented that when going from the top to the bottom one if you can't move into the left-hand lane (so as to take the first exit of the bottom one), it's easier to exit in the right-hand lane and then do a complete loop around the bottom one rather than to loop around the top roundabout and try again there.

The final thing to pay attention to with roundabouts is deciding whether to stop or go. As you approach it you have to constantly check the traffic and decide whether to stop or go, stop or go, stop or go (as my instructor repeated on the approach to more than one roundabout). The correct answer is constantly changing as other people make their way around - someone who is initially indicating right may change to indicate left as they pass the exit before yours, while a different driver to your right who is currently stationary might decide that their 3 to 6 is now clear and so they can go. And they won't be watching you when making that decision as they have right of way!

With that all out of the way, we then trundled off on a roundabout tour. Starting from Longmynd Drive it was right onto Bishopsfield Road, right again onto Longfield Avenue, and then left at the first roundabout onto Peak Lane towards Stubbington (which is a 60 limit, giving me an opportunity to floor it - though not for long as it soon turns back into a 30 at the outskirts of Stubbington). Left at the first and straight at the second roundabouts (with the latter being the offset one I mentioned earlier), and then towards Lee-on-Solent and along the sea front into Gosport. Where I promptly got lost in a maze of twisty roundabouts with my instructor patiently navigating me around them, until eventually we exited probably along Rowner Road before heading north up Newgate Lane. Today we turned left at the second of the two roundabouts back onto Longfield Avenue past HMS Collingwood, right onto Peak Lane going uphill, and then right onto The Avenue to tackle Quay Street from another direction (which looks ordinary on the satellite photos... until you spot that the road overlay has you going through the middle of it!).

Next week: pedestrian crossings! My homework is to name five different types of crossings, but not including a Pegasus crossing.
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