There is an old adage in the newspaper business. If a dog bites a man, it’s not news. But if a man bites a dog ... well, then, you have yourself a story there.
So, when they put up a traffic light or pave a parking lot, it’s not on the front page.
A roundabout, however, is headline worthy. Especially since the counter-clockwise traffic pattern of 1) yielding, 2) merging and 3) circling is still a foreign concept in parts of Middle Georgia.
These strange creatures are like snow days. We are timid about getting out there and driving on them.
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Still, roundabouts keep popping up in unexpected places, and they are being proposed in others. They are replacing stop signs at select intersections, and many drivers swear by their effectiveness at improving traffic flow. So I will put my spin on the issue.
We certainly will have to educate those little old ladies who drive their Buicks to church and keep them from hopping on these merry-go-rounds and being late for Sunday School.
And lecture the college kids coming back from fraternity parties. “No, officer, I haven’t been drinking. See that roundabout over there? I’m just dizzy.’’
My first roundabout experience was at the famous Place de l’Étoile, where 12 avenues come together around the Arc de Triomphe in France. It was pure vertigo. Hemingway once called Paris a “moveable feast.’’ He could have called it a “moving violation.’’
The roundabout at U.S. 341 and Ga. 74 near Culloden has been cited as a major road improvement. That intersection has been the scene of some terrible accidents in the past. This roundabout is large, wide, easy to handle and actually kind of fun.
The craziest roundabout I have been on -- except for the one in Paris, of course -- is at the intersection of Frederica and Old Demere roads on the middle of St. Simons Island. Although I consider myself a capable driver, I still have trouble judging the correct lane to make a graceful exit. It’s like being on a Tilt-a-Whirl at the fair.
Many Maconites have been indoctrinated to the world of roundabouts at the front entrance of the Macon Mall. There is also one at the back gate to Middle Georgia State College. (Since the school’s mascot is the Knights, perhaps they should name it “Knights of the Round Table.’’)
I took a spin on the mall roundie last week. When you get more than seven or eight cars in the rotation, it can be March Madness. There were a couple of close calls, but no reported casualties. Add a few low-riders playing loud stereos and you have “surround sound.’’
By contrast, I had the circle all to myself at Middle Georgia State. No one was watching, so I pretended to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. and did a victory lap.
I also checked out the new roundabout in Warner Robins, the first in the city. It opened in late December on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, not far from Gate 5 at Robins Air Force Base.
This proved to be an adventure. I followed a red Honda three-quarters around the big tree to Wellborn Road, then circled back, where a small green car clearly ignored the “yield” sign.
I gave her a rather disappointed look. For a moment, I wondered if there was such a thing as RRR -- Roundabout Road Rage.
There have been discussions on roundabouts at the corner of Oglethorpe and College streets and also at Forest Hill Road and Ridge Avenue. One is near my office, and the other is near my house.
Honestly, I cannot see either one working smoothly. Oglethorpe and College is the confluence of traffic from three schools -- Alexander II, Mount de Sales and Mercer. Half the afternoon carpool lane at Alex II will be backed up on the roundabout. Forest Hill is simply circuitous. Cars will be chasing their tails as they orbit Ridge.
One size does not fit all. If the yellow brick road had a roundabout when Dorothy met up with the scarecrow, I wonder if she would have ever made it to Oz?
Reach Gris at 744-427.