Finding right solutions to roundabout woes

A worker fixing the traffic lights at the intersection of Jalan Sultan and Jalan Pemancha in Bandar Seri Begawan. Picture: BT/Rudolf Portillo

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A ROUNDABOUT with multiple exits, three lanes, and cars criss-crossing in complete disarray. It may sound like the Kiulap roundabout but what I'm referring to is a roundabout in Taiwan, one that I came across on YouTube while looking up tricky roundabouts to handle and negotiate.

The videographer says in his video that "you just point straight for the exit you want to go to, and go for it." He adds later on that "if you use the roundabout properly, as intended, you'll probably get into an accident."

It struck me then and there. Is this what is happening, or has happened here in Brunei with our Kiulap roundabout? Do we need to actually drive like morons to preserve ourselves from being caught in accidents? Is the traffic light system being proposed the real solution here?

Those are the questions I asked myself, and also put forward to others.

I've had some time to think about it, and I am not sure what the outcome will be.

There are several things at play here. The motoring public are arguing right, left and centre about the merits of having the traffic lights put into place. To say that there are some that have more weight behind their particular side of the argument is a bit pointless, because they all carry their justifications.

Some of the very vocal proponents are saying that the current system in place, including the lines that have been set up to dictate the flow of traffic are not working efficiently to moderate the congestion of vehicles that build up.

Their argument is that when the authorities had attempted to direct the flow of traffic with cones acting as dividers, the build up was more than usual, and that it was confusing. They feel that by having the traffic lights installed, people will move onto the roundabout and off in a more regular fashion.

Those who are pushing for the traffic lights not to be installed are saying that the congestion is down to the fact that people using the roundabouts inappropriately and are also making it difficult for motorists who are using it in the right manner to get onto the roundabout. Hence delaying the vast majority of motorists who actually follow the rules of the three-laned roundabout.

One opinion that was put forward to me was that the history of the road should be looked into at the very beginning, and whether or not the roundabout was the appropriate solution to the conundrum.

Before the roundabout there was a four way intersection, on a national highway, that saw numerous accidents. Traffic lights that were set up there weren't adhered to and the switch to the roundabout has meant that there had been less serious accidents versus the intersection that preceded it.

The roundabout solved a certain problem, a serious one at that. So the question of whether or not the roundabout was the right solution for that time is negligible in my books.

To be fair, if you were to take the roundabout during any peak period of traffic there will be tail backs emanating from the roundabout.

I do feel that those using the roundabout inappropriately are a contributing factor, but there is also the sheer number of vehicles that are using the roundabout that causes the congestion in the first place.

Look at the Jangsak, Beribi areas during these peak hours and you will see exactly what I mean. The high volume of vehicles that are going through the roundabout to and from that area of the country means will ultimately lead to the congestion irrespective of what happens, because the roundabout is located where the majority of the traffic travels through.

Lets say we were to travel from the direction of the airport towards the roundabout, even if we were to make flyovers that bypassed the roundabout (for those who need to get to Jangsak and Beribi), yes you would be going through that area without a fuss, but then you meet another roundabout not long after.

In fact it is the same once you reach the end of the highway (near the supreme court) and to a lesser extent Kiulap's traffic lights. By passing the roundabout will only lead to congestion at a bottleneck further down the road.

Another thing to consider about the traffic light proposal is that, as mentioned at the very beginning of this piece, there are those on the three-laned roundabout do not use it appropriately.

A conventional traffic light isn't going to help curb those who are cutting into the wrong lanes of the roundabout and using it dangerously.

So where does it leave us? Between a rock and a hard place.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not reflect the views of The Brunei Times.

The Brunei Times

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