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Common hazards at Roundabouts.

These are some of the hazards to watch out for on roundabouts. The list here isn’t the full list, but it is maybe a list that will get you thinking more. If you have any ideas of things to add to this list then please email me.

Queuing traffic.
Of course this is obvious, getting through the queue can be hazardous, as sometimes can be sitting in the queue itself. You need to be aware that drivers may be apprehensive about the junction and may be concentrating more on other traffic than normal; and so unfortunately will be less likely to notice a cyclist.

The same applies not only on the approach queue but also while you are going around the junction. Drivers entering, exiting and also perambulating the junction may not be looking out for cyclists and so won’t register that you are there; even if they have seen you.

You need to be confident and assertive and put your bicycle into a position on the road where you will be noticed. Don’t sit in the gutter, get into the drivers line of vision.

Accident debris.
Because of the confusion surrounding roundabouts they can be an area where low speed accidents often occur. The most common of these is when the first car in the queue stops at an empty roundabout and the second car, not expecting the halt, runs into the back of them.

The real reason for the impact is a lack of anticipation by both drivers (the first should have been aware the junction was clear and kept going, the second shouldn’t have been so close). When I was in the south of France I was amazed at how many of these impacts I saw when there had been a sudden shower after a hot dry spell; the drivers of the second cars just didn’t anticipate how greasy the roads were and so skidded into the first car.

As you approach a roundabout be aware of this and keep your eyes open for glass and other detritus lying in the carriageway. If there is this aftermath of an accident in your path try to take the path that car tyres have swept. If you can’t get through a clear path then stop as soon as safe afterwards and check that no glass is embedded in your tyre.

Slippery surfaces.
Many roundabouts have tight bends on the approach and exit. You should already be aware that you shouldn’t corner and brake at the same time as it greatly reduces your traction and may result in a skid or fall. Make sure your speed is the correct speed for the junction as you approach the bend, not once you are on the bend.

In the rain this is even more critical. Because many roundabouts create traffic queues the road surface can become greasy and oily from dripping engine oil of the traffic. If the roundabout is near a bus or lorry depot then there is also a high likelihood of spilt diesel on the junction where their fuel tanks have been overfilled and then overflowed as the vehicle took its first corner. Use your nose to detect fresh diesel spills, they smell badly.

Oil and rain are a bad surface for two wheeled vehicles such as bicycles. Be careful! Be extra careful and vigilant if this is the first rain after a dry spell, the road surface will be extra slippery.

Other surfaces which will be slippery, especially when wet, are the painted surfaces and metal manhole covers. If at all possible don’t ride on them. If you do need to ride on them, or diesel spills, then take the straightest line possible whilst keeping the bike upright. Do not brake or pedal. Once past the slippery patch you can take corrective action to get your bike back onto the correct course (be careful if it was diesel though, your tyres may now be slippery).

The final type of surface that will have little traction is around the gutter line and the inside lane between the exit and entrance of a side road. Here you will encounter a large amount of gravel and other rubbish that has been swept from the main carriageway by vehicle tyres. Try not to ride on this as not only does it have very little traction, it may cause you p*nctures.

Road Joints.
The final thing to beware of are joints in the road surface. Any joint running parallel with your path may become a “tram line” which catches your wheel and either takes you off course or trips your bike over. Try to avoid these joints where possible, and if you need to cross one do so at as wide an angle as possible to prevent your wheel dropping in.

Joints which cross your path at ninety degrees may be at different levels, or may be breaking up with the volume of heavy traffic that crosses it. If this is the case then there is a risk of damage to your wheels, as well as the sudden jolt throwing your hands off the bars or worse.

Just be vigilant and keep your eyes open. Try to take the smoothest and safest route.

Other infrastructure.
Many roundabouts have crossing soon after the exit, or just before an entry. Not all these crossings are visible from the main junction, so can be a surprise as you round the exit bend and are confronted with a red light. Be aware of this and be prepared to stop.

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