Tutorial - Spiral Roundabouts
These very large, busy roundabouts are becoming more and more frequent these days, so it’s essential that learner drivers know how to deal with them correctly. Failure to do so could be dangerous once they’re driving alone as lane disciple could easily lead to accidents.
Learners shouldn’t fear them. Yes, they look big. Yes, they’re always busy. The good news is that the hardest part is done for us. The decision to go or stop is now as simple as obeying the lights.
That difficulty is now replaced with the question ‘which lane should I be in?’ and staying in lane.
Let’s start from the beginning.
On approach you’ll more than likely see signs showing you the lay out of the roundabout, which will help in making your decision about which lane to be in. Look out for markings on the floor. This could be in the form of arrows, or words showing you which lane is for where. Quite often, the arrows will all point straight on. This is to prevent anyone from trying to turn immediately right as soon as they reach the roundabout. So don’t rely on the arrows 100%.
If you’re turning left, left hand lane. It will never be wrong. If you’re going straight across it could be the left, it could be the middle. In the diagram below it’s the red arrows for straight and blue for left.
Note how the red path started in the middle and by the time they passed exit 1, they’re now in the outside lane. Hence the name, spiral. The lanes push you outwards so hopefully you’ll leave the roundabout in your normal drive position.
The abundance of markings all over the junction can sometime be confusing. Follow the lie that applies to you and ignore the others. your line should always be a smooth, gradual curve. Keep an eye on the lines on the inside of which ever bend your on. So if turning right, the markings on your right and vice versa for left.
It’s turning right that causes the issue for those with minimal experience.
The image above shows the path you should be taking for turning right at this junction. Right hand lane on approach, stay to the right. By the time you reach the first set of lights (¼ of the way around the roundabout) you’ll be in the right hand lane still, but straight after, this is where you’ll need to spiral outwards. By the time you’ve gone past exit 2 (the one opposite of where you came on) you should be in the outside lane.
The blue arrows shows the correct path. Often when there is markings confusion, at this spiralling stage, students can some time opt for the middle lane, the red arrows. This is acceptable, but it does mean more work when you come off. You’ll have to merge with cars on your left and come back to your normal position as soon as it’s safe to do so. An unnecessary task if done correctly first time.
Here we can see the same roundabout, just coming from a different direction. The annotated diagram shows the ¼ way round point and another tip I often tell students to help get them across to the far lane, which sometimes isn’t guided with markings.
If there are no lines to shepherd you across, aim the vehicle after the ¼ way around point towards the island on the far side. Any car on your left at this point is going straight across. You’ll not be cutting anyone up, but a check on your mirrors can’t hurt to make sure someone else isn’t getting it all wrong.
Don’t forget to MSM as you leave the junction, the same way as you would a normal roundabout.
Not all spiral roundabouts are the same. Some time they have 4, 5, 6 exits. Some times multiple lanes can take you to the same place (the left is always the one to opt for as it’ll take you into your normal drive position when you come off). Some times they’re well signed, some time they’re not. Occasionally you’ll not have lights to help you on, in which case you treat it like a regular roundabout in terms of coming on. The diagram below helps highlight some of these oddities.
Here there are two lanes for turning right, where all other approaching directions only have one and the green circle shows there are no lights helping you come on here and no lights on the actual roundabout itself at the ¼ of the way round stage for those coming from the right in this image.
The lack of consistency is a challenge for those learning, so a slow approach and driving speed on these junctions will potentially give you the time to deal with any oddities whilst travelling around them.
The ten minute, annotated video below shows multiple attempts at these type of roundabouts from different directions and shows how you should negotiate them correctly.