Last Saturday was my birthday, and to celebrate, Mrs Missouri took me to Clearwater in Florida. I’ll spill more details later, but I want to focus on the roundabout one happens upon when driving on Clearwater island. It’s not the first roundabout I’ve seen (not even in the US), but it is the first I’ve seen where more than two cars at the same time try to use it. And it shows why Americans don’t like roundabouts or soccer.
I don’t understand the mockery about roundabouts in a country with a stop sign on every street corner. I bet stop signs are responsible for more accidents and carbon emissions than coal mines. If done well, a roundabout is the pinnacle of civilized driving. As a roundabout commonly replaces a set of traffic lights, the endless waiting and dangerous yellow light period makes way for a corner that everyone can take the same way. If you’re lucky, you never even have to slow down. And best of all, roundabouts are all about second chances. Missed your exit? No problem, just take another round on the house. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, traffic lights; roundabouts are fantastic.
Not in Florida, however. First of all, the concept seems confusing to beach crowd. The roundabout’s first problem is its popularity. All the yield signs in the world can’t stop eager drivers from prematurely entering the merry-go-round of awesome. When they’ve squeezed themselves on for the ride, the whole idea of driving in exactly the same direction at the same angle seems to be so taxing on the poor driver’s mind that the already challenging concept of blinkers is forgotten at all. I have seen more people change lanes without notice on that roundabout in two days than on all of Saint Louis’ highways in a year. Lastly, the concept of going around when you’ve made a mistake is completely lost on the motorized Floridian. I have seen people go from the inner lane to their ‘exit’ like they were heading for the first restroom they saw in 120 miles. I can’t help but see the frustrated American driver shake their head when they leave the roundabout and curse it. Not because roundabouts aren’t awesome, but simply because a lack of understanding keeps the average American from appreciating the beauty in what the rest of the world knows to treasure. So roundabouts are like soccer, after all.