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No way around it: more roundabouts coming to GTA roads

Last Updated Dec 12, 2017 at 6:44 pm EDT

As city planners put more roundabouts on GTA roads, the Ministry of Transportation says it’s thinking of revamping driving tests to quiz motorists specifically on how to handle the traffic circles.

What to do in a roundabout is already in the official MTO Driver’s Handbook, however it’s not currently on Ontario’s G1 tests. The government plans to update the knowledge test in summer 2018, and says roundabout rules may make it on.

A number of roundabouts have been installed in the GTA in recent years. As CityNews reported yesterday, a single section of road in Richmond Hill has six of them in a 4.3-km stretch, and two more nearby.

As more roundabouts hit the roads in the Toronto area, drivers are having to learn how to navigate this relative novelty. While some are nonchalant, others admit things don’t always go smoothly in the traffic circles.

“There’s a roundabout down the road from where I live. When I take my dog for a walk I always see at least two or three cars stopped and not moving, as they have no idea where to go or what to do,” writes CityNews viewer Evana Crowley. “Everyone’s waiting for the other person for go first.”

Another viewer was more confident. “It’s not difficult! Pay attention to the caution signs and use your turn signal!” writes Janet Cartwright.

New drivers may be faced with a roundabout in their road tests if one is near a test centre, the Ministry of Transportation says, but it’s not a mandatory part of the exam. You can test your own roundabout skills with CityNews’s interactive quiz.

Peel Region currently has two roundabouts on Emil Kolb Parkway, another one on Old Baseline and Dixie Roads, and three more on the way. Those are planned for Airport Road in Caledon, and Winston Churchill Boulevard, south of Norval, Ont.

“Right now they’re in detailed design stage. Probably the ones on Airport Road are still a couple years out,” says Joe Avsec, Manager of Traffic and Sustainable Transportation for Peel Region.

Roundabouts are initially more expensive to build, but they cost less to maintain than traditional intersections, he says. That’s not the only reason the region prefers them over stoplights.

“They’re more environmentally friendly; they move traffic around without having to stop, so they’re very efficient,” he explains.

They’re also a lot safer.

“One of the key aspects of it is that they prevent the most severe types of collisions, which are right-angle collisions,” he says.

Peel plans to install more roundabouts as it builds new intersections.

“If we’re putting in a traffic signal, we will screen the applicable intersection to see if it’s appropriate for a roundabout, and wherever we can, we will do so,” says Avsec.

Before a new roundabout opens, he says the region does a local education blitz, so drivers know how to navigate the circle when the time comes.

“Usually pick up on them relatively quickly, and for the most part we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback on them, and members of the public saying we should be doing more of it,” he says.

Peel isn’t the only region that’s moving towards roundabouts. In recent years, Hamilton, Ottawa and Waterloo have all installed the traffic feature. Ontario is also installing them on its roads. So far there are 16 on provincial highways, with several more under construction and in planning, the Ministry of Transportation says.