Become a Member: Get Ad-Free Access to 3,000+ Reviews, Guides, & More

Roundabouts a major rider danger

Roundabouts road safety rules
A typical sideswipe crash at a roundabout

Roundabouts are just as dangerous for riders as intersections says Austroads which has called for riders to be considered a priority in “Safe System” design.

Their aptly named report, “Understanding and Improving Safe System Intersection Performance” says intersections account for 30% of all vehicle crash injuries, but a massive 47% for motorcyclists.

It confirms the recent findings of the 2017 US Motorcycle Crash Causation Study which found 66.7% of motorcycle crashes occur at intersections.

Roundabouts just as dangerous

But while roundabouts improve safety for most vehicles, the Austroads report says they are no safer for riders.

Austroads says drivers at roundabouts ‘look-but-fail-to-see’ (we call it “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”, or SMIDSY) smaller vehicles such as motorcycles, scooters and bicycles, resulting in sideswipe crashes.

“Improving Safe System outcomes of two-wheelers at roundabouts should be a focus of dedicated design innovation projects,” Austroads declares.

While riders would like to see drivers better trained and more public education campaigns to look twice for riders, Austroads is more concerned with physical changes it can make to the road environment.

Their report recommends a number of different strategies such as lower speed limits, raised pavements, safety barriers and rub rails to reduce run-off-road risk, advanced warning signs and rumble strips on the approach to intersections and roundabouts.

London roundabout has safe boxes for cyclists, but not motorcyclists or scooter riders
London roundabout has safe boxes for cyclists, but not motorcyclists or scooter riders

Driver distraction

There is also no mention of driver distraction, which the Allianz Center for Technology says is increased at intersections and roundabouts where drivers stop or slow down.

“Distracting activities are often carried out when waiting at red traffic lights – with the driver’s best intention of not compromising road safety. However, inner-city intersections are a spot where traffic conditions change extremely rapidly.”

It points out that riders are often not seen by distracted drivers.

Call to double driver phone penalties roundabouts

“While waiting at the light, the driver types a number into the cellphone, updates the navigator, or lights a cigarette. The light then changes to green more quickly than expected, and the driver moves forward before even properly looking at the road. The cigarette is still smoked to the end, the text message is completed. Another lesson: distraction increases the risk of accidents in precisely those places where the driver considers them to be most harmless.”

  • Have you ever been sideswiped at a roundabout? Leave your comments below.

  1. We had a ’green’ roundabout with manicured hedges, only about waist height but it was enough to block your view of oncoming traffic. Thankfully the hedges have now been removed, was ‘fun’ for a while.

  2. so where did this misleading drawing come from? roundabouts don’t allow 2 vehicles to merge to a single lane as drawn…. either the left lane would be left turn only, so if an actual scenario the rider would be at fault for going straight ahead… or there would at least be a 2nd lane on the other side prior to the merge… totally misleading… doesn’t help anyone.

    1. That’s not the only problem with that drawing. The incident depicted(if the lanes were drawn correctly) does not only happen to riders it happens to everyone and is often the least likely to result in a serious accident.
      The most dangerous incident is where a vehicle enters from the left without slowing and runs the rider down or other variations of the invisible motorcycle theme.

      1. There is this exact situation in Burnley, Melbourne (loyala grove roundabout) actually. I always go through it with great caution and I’m surprised there isn’t an accident there every day! It’s quite stupid & dangerous but it’s a very busy road which goes onto a narrow bridge & traffic already banks up with 2 lanes, so I can understand why they’ve done it. (Google maps satellite image shows it clearly if still in doubt)

  3. I find the biggest problem at roundabouts is drivers not staying in their own lanes i.e. trying to “straight-line” the roundabout regardless of who is the lane next to them. The other problem is idiots with trailers who cross the dividing line with their cars and have no idea that the trailer is even further into the other lane. In my opinion there should be a licence endorsement for towing, after drivers who wish to tow have been properly trained and assessed.

  4. I’ve been run into from behind twice, fortunately I was in a car.
    Both times the driver said he & she was distracted by their kids in the car.

      Motorcycle Council of NSW has a good article.
      High proportion of motorcycle collisions at roundabouts (73%), T-junctions (70%) and cross roads (72%) were due to the actions of the other driver
      * in rear end collisions, 61% were the fault of the bike.

      That’s what newbies do.
      They sit too close to cars & other motorcycles, they can’t brake hard, & that’s why I don’t ride with newbies.
      Four wheels stop faster than two.

  5. Who invented roundabouts anyway? They are a disaster waiting to happen. Stop signs on the lesser road or a traffic signal is much safer and unambiguous.

  6. Roundabouts are pretty dangerous for pedestrians too! I have been close to death thanks to idiots who don’t realise they have to look at more than their makeup or their mobile.
    There are multiple problems with roundabouts that no driver is properly taught to deal with, and there are often serious design flaws in the implementation of many roundabouts. Often they are just plonked into an intersection as a cheap alternative to lights and are so small that they create more of a dangerous obstacle than a solution. You either get the oblivious idiot who doesn’t look at all the bully who thinks if he charges at you without braking you won’t risk pulling out even though he’s still twenty metres from the intersection and you’re nearly in it or you get the timid idiot who needs a gold inlaid invite from the queen to move off but then panics and slams on the brakes because a vehicle approached from a direction they can see but doesn’t have right of way but they think they have to stop for it as no one told them how to use a roundabout.

  7. My grandson was hit by a bus yesterday in a roundabout, the bus was doing a U turn in the roundabout without any indicators. The number of people using roundabouts without indicators is phenomenal, perhaps an education program on the correct use of indicators in roundabouts would be beneficial to all road users. this probably won’t happen because of advertising costs.

  8. It’s a perpetual issue with drivers thinking they do not have to consider anyone, not just riders. I’ve seen this done to busses and trucks. This is a problem with the quality of drivers and poor behaviours. I’d like to see all driver le forced to qualify for a bike license before they could drive a car.

  9. On more than a few occasions I’ve had truck drivers completely ignore them. There is one particular quite small roundabout near me which is in constant use by car transporters and sometimes the trucks will just roll right through, forcing others on the roundabout to stop. Very dangerous!

  10. This months Dashcam Australia has a few examples of people who have enough trouble going straight let alone negotiating a roundabout.

  11. SAPOL are pinging people for not indicating left when traveling straight ahead through roundabouts. What are your thoughts? Frankly, I reckon indicating left when going straight ahead is frought with danger. A rider should be concentrating on the road and not have to fiddle with a momentary indication which a car driver could use as an excuse to cut across a rider’s path as in Adelaide’s infamous Brittania Roundabout. The elephant in the room is the ‘might is right’ mentality of many car drivers. Hence part of the reason why so many city dwellers drive SUV’s. The “I didn’t see you mate’ excuse is often plain bullshit. If the truth be known many drivers play a game of bluff knowing the motorcyclist will come off second best and therefore slow down, stop or giveway to them. I ride a scooter as well as a motorcycle. I can tell you that where there is a lack of awareness and respect for motorbikes it is even worse when riding a scooter. Tradies in their utes get pissed off when you filter past them on your scooter and will try to drag you off at the lights or close gaps at the next set of lights but the worst of the lot are aggressive females who have no qualms whatsoever about turning in front of you or cutting you off. It’s time to stop the crap and call a spade a spade. Some car drivers just don’t like motorbikes and motorcyclists. For every Mr Magoo who genuinely didn’t see the bike there would be 5 other drivers who did see and couldn’t care less. That’s the reality we face on the roads. Education programs would help but it needs to be backed up by fair law enforcement against dangerous and inconsiderate drivers.

  12. I can’t recall seeing a roundabout with a give way sign as per the sketch.
    In the old days, before these euro invented intersections came here in the 1970’s we had 4 way crossroads some times with 4 stop signs, sometimes just 2 stop signs opposite each other.
    So we quickly learned to come to a crawl before entering it. The rationale behind the roundabout was to speed things up when there was clearly no traffic.
    The only safe roundabout is the single lane one.
    And as a rider that nearly went under a 4WD turning in the outer lane till one exit more than me and me exiting like me from the centre lane like all the other traffic just did.
    Major 4 lane roads expect all drivers/ riders to use the straight across as a normal, like Hamilton Rd and Webster road large roundabout.
    Funny thing about hat one, when it was built, the BCC said they would never build a smaller one than that diameter as they were not safe as Motorists need time to take all the moving traffic into consideration. Very Funny Ha Ha !
    Redcliffe CC had the right idea, all their 4 lane road roundabouts had the outer lane as dedicated turn off lane’s.
    Thanks to the RACQ whinging to Transport Qld, We Qld’ landers were all given the RACQ’s first pick of the safe Canadian ‘Alberta’ system.
    What a failure it is in real practice, as it relies to Humans to read what other people are about to do, and just how you are expected to see behind and forwards, plus sideways for this info is impossible to achieve, especially when 99% have no idea of the rules.
    Like I said, single road roundabout’s only please and retrofit traffic lights at all existing 4 lane roundabout’s that are proven killers. Gladly some have, are and will be converted.

  13. The design is clearly wrong, and the designers should be charged.
    As for the biker, i would have been accross the intersection, before the car moved a yard.

  14. Roundabouts and merging traffic have one major problem, forget who did what and who did not use their indicators, that is all just all a cover for not understanding how the eye works. The problem is in the way the eye works, it just does not see non moving objects and when a vehicle is slowly merging with you, both you and the other driver will not see each other. Now if the other vehicle is moving across your vision that is another matter. Many years ago as I was approaching a roundabout a motorcyclist passed me and as he turned left into the roundabout he hit the back of a car, rolling over the boot, he was not hurt but it got me thinking about how the eye works and after some research found that roundabouts and motorcycles do not mix. This brings up something that I believe as part of road design an expert on how the eye sees should be involved. Just maybe large roundabouts would be made smaller to obtain that movement that the eye detects.

Comments are closed.