Monday, June 23, 2008

Frank Blackmore's Magic

The Brits must still love their obits. The serious papers, such as the Guardian, usually give a lot of room to lengthy essay-like obituaries. One that caught my eye this weekend honored Frank Blackmore, who apparently invented the mini-roundabout, an island-free version of the traffic junction that scares the heck out of most American drivers. The picture above is his famous magic roundabout in Swindon, which has five mini-roundabouts integrated into a normal roundabout.

Here's an excerpt from the obit:
He then worked on the idea of a roundabout with no central island in his own time, knowing it would not be taken seriously. But, after a long struggle, he finally got the first mini-roundabout introduced in Peterborough in 1969, stationing himself there with a loud-hailer to tell motorists what to do when they met it.

Blackmore was motivated by a desire to see an end to choked-up junctions, which he found frustrating and unnecessary. Eventually, he elaborated on his original idea by developing multiple roundabouts. Two of his projects are the so-called magic roundabout in Swindon (1972) and the multi-ring junction in Hemel Hempstead (1973), which, love them or loathe them, are cunningly effective ways of moving traffic. He was also keen to improve road safety, and the mini-roundabout has indeed proved much safer than traffic lights.
YouTube has a driver's eye view of going through the Swindon roundabout. If you want to see how traffic should operate in the Swindon roundabout study this amusing diagram (reproduced below but easier to see at the link).

1 comment:

Squid Vicious said...

This pretty much what DC ought to do with the DuPont Circle roundabout.