Going round in circles

In this part of the world we are very fond of going round in circles.

Roundabouts were introduced at some intersections to ease the flow of traffic from all the exits.

A roundabout is a circular one way street where traffic is slowed down and enters a one-way stream around a central island. The direction of travel is clockwise here in the UK and Ireland where we drive on the left hand side of the road. So as we approach a roundabout, we are really at the end of a “T” junction, wanting to turn left, because that is the direction of the one way street. We only have to give way to the traffic flow from the right. In other countries where traffic travels on the right, the roundabout traffic goes in an anti-clockwise direction.

Over the years I have noticed that some Borough Councils here have decorated the roundabouts in some way, usually with flowers and shrubbery in season. More recently sculpture of some form has been introduced.

I had reason to use the A57 a few weeks ago and noticed a new sculpture at Lindsay’s Corner Roundabout. Having made some enquiries I discovered that the Seedhead Sculpture has been designed by Stephen Todd, to reflect the historical importance of linen production in the area.

Each up stand is designed to capture the abstract look of a flax field mixed with some wildflowers. Produced locally by McKnight Engineering the Seedheads combine contemporary European landscape design ideas, wild natural looking grasses and formal plant groupings the scheme changes dramatically with each passing season.

Now I must charge the batteries and go in search of a few more circles.

The roundabouts are usually sponsored by some local industry.

26 thoughts on “Going round in circles

  1. Rhyleysgranny

    I rather like theses sculptures. There is one on a Lisburn roundabout. A very large needle with a piece of thread going through the eye. I assume it is also depicting the linen industry but have no idea who it is by. Perhaps it was also Stephen Todd. I must make enquiries.

    Isn’t describing a roundabout quite complex? It must have taken you ages to write all that out. Funny how you just know what something is but explaining it is so difficult. 🙂

  2. Lily

    Grannymar, I have often thought it a pity that explanations of the great works of art that are on roadways aren’t available. Obviously they can’t put it beside the piece as they dont want cars stopping. Like Rhyleysgranny said, I’m often guessing what the piece means. We have a lot down South since we built all these new motorways in the Celtic Tiger years.

    In fact I’ve heard it said that all we will have to show for our Celtic Tiger years is lots of Roundabouts and decking!

    By the way, John was so unimpressed with my roundabout behaviour, he took it upon himself to teach me proper roundabout etiquette. I told him roundabouts hadn’t been invented when I learned to drive! 🙂

  3. Nick

    Sorry to say I find that particular sculpture rather hideous. But I love the Big Fish and the Peace and Reconciliation sculpture on Laganside in Belfast.

  4. Ursula

    Grannymar, if taking your header literal you are making quite a political statement about these isles.

    When I arrived in England, ca 1982, the nation was still in shock at the wonderment of going round and round in circles taken to excess in the then NEW city of Milton Keynes (the one whose town planners laid out all roads in vertical/horizontal grids). In those days, when venturing outside its boundaries and if you cared about your social standing, it was vital not to admit that you did indeed reside in futuristic MK and, yes, there were those cow sculptures. (This was before Damien Hirst put his own stamp onto what to do with a cow in the name of art).

    Of course, since then roundabouts have mushroomed in the UK like rodents on heat. I like roundabouts: They democratise traffic unlike arbitrary traffic lights, they keep you vigilant and – for the ditherers amongst us and when unsure which direction to take – allow you to go round and round and round again till you have made up your mind which exit to take. Beats reversing on a motorway any day.


  5. stwidgie

    Interesting. I first saw traffic circles in France (rond-points), and they’ve been very popular sites for landscaping and art. I thought it was kinda cool when our sister city dedicated one of theirs to us.

    They’ve been slow to catch on here in the U.S. There’s one near my train line, and one in my home town now. People claim to be absolutely baffled as to what they should do when they come to one.

    We do tend to mess them up a bit here by installing traffic lights within the roundabout itself (at least in Washington, D.C., a city where any navigation error takes ten minutes to work your way out of).

    I tried to find Lindsay’s Corner Roundabout in Google Earth but no luck. Is it close to the airport?

  6. kenju

    Roundabouts are catching on here, and one is under construction near me. In the town near where my daughter lives, there are many of them, and I always feel as though I’m taking my life in my hands to pull into one, especially when I am not sure where I am going.

  7. Rummuser

    Precisely for the reason that the traffic islands are a safety measure to ensure that accidents do not take place, they need to be devoid of any distracting features. The kind of distractions that you have written about can cause people to divert their attention from the matter at hand, which is watch for the traffic from the right before venturing to the left.

  8. Grannymar Post author

    Rhyleysgranny – I must look out for that sculpture in Lisburn. It sounds as if it was made for me!

    Lily – I found four http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/ireland/090903/highway-art-sculpture

    Nick – I like the Big Fish, but am not sure about the other one.

    Ursula – Some of the major urban roundabouts here have traffic lights.

    Stwidgie – Checking the map it is on the A57 between Doagh and Ballypalady, not a million miles from Belfast International Airport.

    Ian – I didn’t know that.

    Ramana – The roundabouts are usually well signposted with all the exits named before you reach them. I can only speak for myself; when approaching an unfamiliar roundabout I count the number of exits to my turn-off and think only of negotiating the traffic until I get there. I actually made a special journey to park up in a lay-by and take the photos.

  9. Grannymar Post author

    Judy – I lost you there in the traffic. If you think of them as I describe above – a curved one way street, it might help.

  10. Baino

    Roundabouts are also plentiful here but more in the suburbs where they ‘slow’ traffic rather than act to keep it flowing. I’m not keen on the distraction of art on roadways frankly. We have an ‘installation’ on one of the freeway’s near by to commemorate the Australian Light Horse Regiment who fought so well in Egypt during the first world war, it’s nothing more than a few red poles with a tuft of wires coming out of the top to signify the horses tails. Very weird. Just a little cranky that my tax dollar pays for this stuff!

  11. Alice

    Who started those roundabouts anyways? Actually, when I first encountered those in this country (Ohio, Las Vegas and now Utah) they confused the you know what out of me. Now that I know I’m to go with the flow and who’s supposed to yield to whom, I rather like them. Beats having to stop when nobody else is around. I think I prefer flowers to sculptures; less damage if somebody fails to yield properly–flowers and shrubs grow back.

  12. Grannymar Post author

    Magpie – Then we might sing and never exit the circle! 😆

    Baino – I have to admit that highway sculpture breaks the monotony of very long straight stretches of motorway and can be used as a time or mileage marker to a destination.

    Alice – The roundabouts that I object to are the painted circles on the road surface. The paint eventually wears away and drivers ignore the fact that they are there.

  13. Brighid

    Roundabouts are interesting. We now have one in our small town. It was a long time coming, with much debate, media, town council, business uproar, and petitions against it. When all was said and it was done, it works really well. Wish the naysayers would put as much energy into doing something about all the drunks and tweakers driving around…

  14. bikehikebabe

    The round-about that leads off our mesa (New Mexico), has a bronze statue of a mountain lion climbing down a bronze tree. Native plants growing around it. We have native plants & mountain lions roaming in our canyons. You never see the lions.

  15. Grannymar Post author

    Brighid – Our problems are the ‘boy racers’ emulating what they see on TV and driving on two wheels.

    BHB – Not sure I would like to meet a mountain lion.

    Magpie – Several Councils planted the roundabouts with colourful spring and summer flowers. They were very pretty and would draw the eye off the road. I have never come across an accident at any of these spots.

  16. Judy Harper

    Maybe it’s because I haven’t a clue about roundabouts, or maybe it’s one of those “you have to be there and actually see the sculpture to appreciate the are, but I have to sorta agree with Nick. We do have one way streets. Usually our boulevards run North and South, while our streets run East and West. I enjoyed your post!

  17. Grannymar Post author


    I did wonder what the story about this sculpture was. I had to dig a little to find out. There are old Mill buildings scattered all over the county and I thought it must relate to them. Linen was big business here in the days before Easy Care fabrics.

  18. Kate

    I quite like this one – it’s different and quite attractive – like you I don’t like the painted on jobbies, where nobody seems to know what they’re doing!

  19. Grannymar Post author

    Kate, nobody obeys the rules with the painted white circles on the road. There is one near me and the paint has completly worn away from cars driving over it. Maybe that should be motorists driving over it!

  20. Marianna

    I love roundabouts! They’re fun and efficient. Although, some people have yet to learn the rules of driving in a roundabout. Like signalling!

    I’m pleased to say that we are seeing more of these in B.C.

    Street art – severely lacking here. 🙁

  21. Lily

    Grannymar, thanks so much for this. Through that article I have discovered that a book will be published by Ann Lane next year on roadside Art. I have often felt this would make a great book.

    By the way Ann Lane sounds a bit like you, and I mean that as a big compliment. (She went around the countryside on her motorbike photographing the artwork!)


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