Mini roundabouts are actually trickier for cyclists to negotiate than normal roundabouts. They are often found in town (where congestion is heavier and speeds are slower), are sometimes used as traffic calming and are a relatively new invention that some older drivers have never been trained for. The ďdouble mini-roundaboutĒ is a classic example of a new junction that some drivers really struggle to understand. It is on these junctions that I see the most common misunderstandings and bad driving.
In principle you should treat them exactly the same as normal roundabouts, but be prepared for some radical differences. The main two differences are the fact that most only have a single approach lane and as all the entries and exits are so close together it is harder to anticipate the traffic situation on the junction as you approach it.
General notes and thoughts
Your speed throughout the junction may be considerably slower than on larger roundabouts, but the same principle of trying to flow smoothly still applies. As there is a likelihood of having to stop make sure you have selected the correct gear before you do so in order that you can get away quickly once a space appears.
Saying that though, near me there is one beautiful mini-roundabout installed as a traffic calming scheme. The sightlines are perfect throughout the junction and so it is normal, as a driver, to approach this junction at the 30mph speed limit and not even have to slow as it is obvious it is clear. As you can expect this has angered the residents as they are complaining that traffic isnít slowing, but it does prove my earlier point as to how traffic should flow through a junction, rather than hit the brakes, stop for no reason, then pull away again with the resultant increase in pollution.
If traffic is heavy and the road is wide enough for you to filter in safety then feel free to do so. However you will need to drop into the traffic queue just before the junction in order to take your turn in entering it. It is very unlikely, unless the traffic is heavy enough, that you will be able to filter the whole way onto and through the junction. Be prepared for this then, and identify the space that you are going to merge into as you approach.
Sometimes, when the traffic is particularly heavy and blocking the roundabout itself, you can filter through in safety. Never do anything which puts you at risk. Be alert for the possibility to hop out of the queue for a sneaky filtering overtake, but only take that opportunity when it is safe to do so.
There is a common phenomenon of three vehicles all arriving at the same time. Because of the lack of space on the junction only one of these vehicles can enter it at a time, but each vehicle has to give way to the vehicle on its right; resulting in stalemate where everybody is giving way to everybody and nobody can move.
Although this is the most hazardous time, the chances of two cars going at once are high, it is also a good time to take advantage of the fact that over short distances such as this the bicycle has greater acceleration than a car; pop in a quick and cheeky overtake to get through this stagnated junction. You also have the advantage that all the drivers are ultra-alert and trying to work out when it is safe to go, meaning they are more likely to spot you. Be careful if you decide to try this.
Riding through the junction
Although there is commonly only one approach lane, your positioning in that lane is critical. If you are turning left, stay in the normal cycling position. If you are going straight ahead, take the centre of the lane. If you are turning right go to the right of the lane, but not so far right that car drivers may be tempted to push past your inside. Make it clear to all other vehicles where you are going by your road positioning on the approach. See Cyclecraft for more positioning help.
With regards the other major difference between these mini-roundabouts and proper roundabouts, the closeness of the entrances, be ultra aware of the traffic situation on them and be ready to react accordingly.
On your approach you need to keep a close eye on the traffic approaching from your right; this is the traffic you have to give way to. Also be aware of traffic from your left that may be performing a U-Turn on the roundabout, you will need to give way to that as well. Look as far down the approach roads as possible, either to establish that they are clear and you wonít need to stop, or to identify a potential space for you to flow through when it gets to the junction.
If you canít see down the approach road then prepare to stop to look carefully. It is beneficial to master the skill of changing down to the correct gear to pull away in, stopping momentarily without taking your feet of the pedals while you look, then accelerating away if it is safe.
Normally though, having arrived at the mini-roundabout and established it is safe to enter, you then need to continue your observations and maintain your safety. Keep a very close eye on traffic at the junctions you approach (on your left) that may not have spotted you and is trying to force its way onto the roundabout into your path. I find that this is much more common on mini-roundabouts than proper roundabouts, so you need to keep your wits about you.
If you are turning right stay well out from the gutter and try to take up the whole junction. Do not encroach on the painted centre island, it is not only slippery but also moves you away from the correct line and may make you less noticeable to drivers (they may think you are cutting the corner and try to enter the junction too early to nip across behind you).
As on normal roundabouts (and when passing side turnings on the left) watch out for traffic pushing in front of you. Cover your brakes, stare (glare) at the driver to make sure they see you and continue your way assertively. As I suggested before, if they do pull out then apply your brakes and inwardly do everything to avoid a collision, outwardly though give off the impression that there will be a collision and you need the car driver to stop as they should have done. Again, be assertive and not aggressive. Normally they will suddenly see you and apologise, and I really do think that it helps them to realise that cyclists are in existence out on the roads and they will look out for us the next time they get to a mini-roundabout.
Double mini roundabouts
Sometimes, where a crossroads was offset, a double mini roundabout gets installed. From above these look like a figure of eight, with approach roads to each of the circles.
Treat these in the same manner as a normal mini roundabout, but be aware that one exit is the entrance to the second roundabout so donít accelerate away until you have established it is clear.
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