Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 7, Part 3: Round and Round My Car and Mind Go....

Doha has no forks in the road; it has only sporks. Or so we culinary anthroadologists call them. Known prosaically as "traffic circles" in the US, here they more poetically are called "roundabouts". Roads generally come from four directions, with drivers merging into the circle when they can and then exiting where they want or, if they are like me and don't know where they want to exit, they start singing with Billy Preston "here we go round in a circle..." American roads usually have intersections, with stoplights. I don't know a colloquial term for such intersections, so let's just call them CFs (which is short for what rhymes with "bluster ducks"). You know what I mean. I'm guessing that many of us have used our cells at some jammed intersection to report "It's a total CF here."
It's time for some truth telling here. Doha roundabouts are more American than CFs, and it's time we get with the program and begin claiming roundabouts as our own, as if we invented them (which, um, we didn't, even in Pierre L'Enfant's original design for Washington, D.C.)

Here's why:

1. Roundabouts are more efficient than CFs. As a traffic engineer as well as a anthroadologist, you're just going to have to trust me on this. Think of it this way. At roundabouts, you never wait unnecessarily: if there is an opening, you enter. At CFs, you must wait if you have the red light, even if no one else is there.

2. Roundabouts are more fair than CFs. In public places, the general and sensible rule is "first come, first served". If you don't agree with this, just try cutting into the front of the line for coffee at Starbucks or for the bathroom at Fedex Field. Good luck. Roundabouts are totally first come, first served. CFs, not so. And who doesn't know that feeling of sitting at a long stop light while some Juanita-come-lately on the cross street simply drives up and drives through! The injustice!

3. Roundabouts have more freedom than CFs. At roundabouts, you are always free to enter (it might not always be wise to do so but, hey, it's the drivers' call). At CFs, in contrast, The Man says "You can go when I say so. You must stop when I give the signal." Talk about Big Brother or, in my case Big Sister (hey, Cristine!). Worse, The Man tempts you to cheat ("Go ahead....the light is red but no one is watching...are they? Go for won't get caught....will you?) Increasingly, Big Sister is literally watching you by posting cameras, so she can catch you breaking the rules she imposed.

On behalf of liberty, equity, and efficiency, we the people should demand that our Great Nation return to its original principles and The Founders' clear intent that we are based on roundabout values.

The other day Laura commented that I was behaving stranger than usual, for which the only reasonable response is "How strange am I usually?"

Oh. There is no Day 7, Part 2. Considering that I originally wrote Part 1 on Day 8, and today is Day 10, I don't have any problem skipping Part 2. Do you?

I go back and forth on font sizes. Do you prefer small, normal, or large?


  1. You need to instruct your students and future policy makers to get on the roundabout situation. I suggest you use subliminal messages. Just walk into class every day and draw a circle on the board.
    also, normal = good

  2. I have drawn a circle on my forehead. It's either a roundabout, or a target.

  3. I agree with most of what you said, except that the RAs are not necessarily fair. If you've arrived at a busy RA at rush hour, you must have noticed the LandCruisers that cut to the right on the shoulder or painted lines and then cut off people who'd been waiting there for a few minutes. Roundabouts like the Immigration RA (not too far from Education City) or the TV RA are prime examples.
    But generally, yes, if all people respect the rules (and EACH FRIGGIN OTHER), RAs are more efficient.
    P.S.: I gmailed you late on May 31.