This is something that the libertarian-leaning part of me really likes.  I’m not a big fan of roundabouts (mostly because Americans don’t know how to drive in them), but I do like the idea of removing certain road items (like traffic lights) and letting people reach an equilibrium.

I have two reservations with the idea, though:

  1. This makes much more sense in small residential areas rather than downtown or on highways.  In the downtown case, I think congestion would be too high for it to work well.  In the highway (not freeway; that’s totally different) scenario, the expectation is to drive fairly quickly, so I think the net change could be more dangerous than a regulated system.  Within small residential areas, though, it can definitely improve the flow of traffic.
  2. I am a big fan of “rules of the road” in general; FA Hayek and Viktor Vanberg wrote quite a bit on the topic, and how rule-following individuals tended to make sounder judgments on the whole than case-by-case thinkers.  This is because the discretionary thinker has to weigh the circumstances in cases that the rule-based thinker (following a solid rule) can simply fall back on the rule.  As a simple example, a rule-based thinker sees a red light and does not drive through it.  A case-by-case thinker sees the red light and decides whether he wants to drive through it or wait.  The problem is, sometimes the case-by-case person misses something and plows right into an oncoming car.  So because the rules of the road are important, and because people have spent so much time internalizing this particular set of rules, there would need to be some clear indicator to tell people “the rules have changed in this zone.”  Roundabouts are the easiest method, so I get why they’re popular among the decentralized driving crowd.  I’d like to find an easier way, though.

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