This month, the first roundabout will open in Cass County. While these have been utilized for many years in other parts of the state and neighboring counties, it is the first in Cass County. It will be located at the intersection of county roads 44 and 1, east of Pine River. In the last 20 years, the County Road 1/County Road 44 intersection has experienced several injury crashes, including two fatalities. This fall, Cass County installed a roundabout to resolve the safety and operational issues of this intersection. Additionally, County Road 1 was reconditioned from the intersection of Highway 84 in Pine River east to the county line. All improvements are funded by the federal state aid funds and the Local Options Sales Tax (LOST).

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By understanding roundabouts and their uses, we can help improve traffic safety and be comfortable in using them. Cass County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation share the following information on roundabouts.

The use of roundabouts promotes several things:

  • Better safety. Roundabouts show a 39% decrease in all crashes and an 89% decrease in fatal crashes.

  • Better traffic flow. Roundabouts can handle high levels of traffic with less delay than most stop signs or signals. The tight curves slow traffic, so entering and exiting is easier and more efficient.

  • Better fuel efficiency and air quality. Where roundabouts replace signals, idling decreases, which reduces vehicle emissions and fuel consumption by 30 percent or more.

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A roundabout is defined as a type of circular intersection or junction in which road traffic is slowed and flows almost continuously in one direction around a central island to several exits onto the various intersecting roads. In a modern roundabout, entering traffic must always yield to traffic already in the circle, and roundabouts have additional restrictions on the junction layout to give high safety. Elimination of the opportunity for the most deadly crashes at intersections (T-bone or perpendicular crashes) is the greatest asset of the intersection design. Pedestrians are routed away from the intersection into which automobiles enter to separate crosswalks, which are located at least one full car length outside of the intersection, where they have a refuge between lanes of traffic.

Modern roundabouts are designed to maximize safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, without the use of traffic signals. These roundabouts can have either a single lane of traffic or multiple lanes to maintain a consistent flow of traffic. Multi-lane roundabouts are designated by signs and pavement markings that inform drivers which lane to choose. Triangular islands between directions of traffic give pedestrians a safe place to wait when crossing only one direction at a time. Crosswalks are set farther back, allowing drivers more time to react to pedestrians before merging in or out of the roundabout.

Yield signs caution drivers to slow and give right-of-way to vehicles already in the roundabout. If there is no traffic in the roundabout, vehicles may proceed without yielding.

A truck apron is the raised section of concrete around the central island that acts as an extra lane for large vehicles. The back wheels of the oversize vehicle can ride up on the concrete so the truck can easily complete the turn.

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There are a few key things to remember when driving in roundabouts:

  • Yield to drivers already in the roundabouts.

  • Stay in your lane; do not change lanes.

  • Do not stop in the roundabout.

  • Avoid driving next to oversize vehicles.

  • Slow down as you approach the roundabout.

  • For multi-lane roundabouts, as with any intersection, get into the appropriate lane as you approach the roundabout.

  • Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the roadway.

  • Watch for signs or pavement markings that require or prohibit certain movements.

  • When entering a roundabout, yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Do not cross into the roundabout until all traffic from the left has cleared.

  • After entering the roundabout, drive in a counter-clockwise direction until you reach your exit.

  • Do not stop, pass or change lanes within a roundabout.

  • If an emergency vehicle approaches, exit the roundabout immediately and then pull over.

Roundabouts are also engineered for safe cycling and pedestrian uses. Cyclists can either ride with traffic inside the roundabout or use the crosswalks appropriately. Cyclists who ride with traffic must follow the same rules as vehicles and must yield as they enter the roundabout. Since traffic moves slowly in the circle, cyclists should be able to travel at or near the same speed as motorists, staying in line with circulating traffic.

Pedestrians must cross only at crosswalks and always stay on the designated walkways. Never cross to the central island. Cross the roadways one direction at a time. Use the median island as a halfway point where you can check for approaching traffic.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: By email at tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us; by phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or by mail or in person at the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.