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Frequently Asked Questions
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Q Isn't a roundabout just another form of intersection?

Absolutely, see Animation 13. And, just like stop signs and stoplights it is important for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to learn the rules for roundabouts.

QHow do pedestrians use a roundabout?

See Animations 3, 6, AND 7. Remember if you are a driver to observe all the pedestrian crossing locations because pedestrians always have the right-of-way when they are in the crosswalks. Also, do not stop in the crosswalks while you are waiting for your turn at the yield line. If you are a pedestrian, be sure to use the crosswalks and make sure the drivers see you before you enter the crosswalk.

QHow do bicycles use a roundabout?

See Animation 8. Bicyclists have a legal right to ride on the street with the traffic just like other intersections, but we urge all riders to use the paths and crosswalks. Statistics show roundabouts are safer for almost everyone. Unfortunately, bike riders riding in traffic do not share those benefits and may actually have a higher accident rate than on-street bikers at other types of intersections. Be smart. Use the paths.

QHow do trucks use a roundabout?

See Animation 10. There are two things you should know about trucks. First, very large trucks can pass through roundabouts. Large trucks will need both lanes to make wide turns, and they can use the truck aprons (concrete area on the outside of the central islands) for additional space. Second, other drivers need to give trucks plenty of room. You should expect trucks to use both lanes; so do not get beside a truck in a roundabout--they may not be able to see you.


QDoes traffic approaching from one direction have priority over traffic approaching from another direction?

The only priority rule is that drivers inside the roundabout have the right-of-way over any driver entering the roundabout, regardless of approach direction. Every entrance has a yield sign for vehicles that wish to enter.

QI learned the rule as: “Yield to the Right.” Is that correct?

At roundabouts, the traffic circulates counter-clockwise, so it will be coming towards you from your left. Yield at the entry to circulating traffic. In practice, that means yield to your left, as you do when entering a freeway or turning right at a red traffic light.

QIs the roundabout like a 4-way stop?

Not really. The main similarity is that both roundabouts and 4-way stop intersections do not have signals. The differences include: 4-way stops yield to the right, roundabouts yield to the left --like a right turn on red-- because the circulating traffic comes from that direction. At 4-way stops, each direction gets a turn in order. At roundabouts, each driver chooses a safe gap to enter and no driver “gets a turn.” See Animation 13

QDo I get a turn to go?

Roundabouts are not like 4-way stops. You do not get a turn to go. You may only enter the roundabout when there is a safe gap in the traffic flow.

QDo I have to stop at the YIELD signs?

It depends on the amount of traffic already in the roundabout. When there is a lot of traffic, you will probably have to stop. Otherwise, when you have a safe gap, you are not required to stop. However, you should always slow down enough so you can stop if necessary.

QHow large of a gap do I need?

You will have to use your own judgment based on the vehicle you are driving, the weather conditions, and traffic flow around you, It is always your responsibility to select a safe gap before you cross your yield line.

QIs it OK to “let someone in?”

Only if you do it exactly right. You can slow down so that the safe gap becomes more obvious to them, but do not stop. If you wish to stop to let someone in, be sure to stop at your yield line so that everyone understands what you are doing. At Dowling Road, many people wait for a moment at the yield lines under the bridge to provide gaps to drivers waiting on the freeway off ramps. That is fine, but do not stop after you cross the yield line and are actually in the roundabout circle.

QI know the rule is “do not stop inside the roundabout.” What should I do when someone else stops inside the roundabout?

Be patient. Wait for them and make sure they go first. If you go in front of a driver that stops you will add to that driver’s confusion, and they will keep making the same mistakes. So, it is in everyone’s best interest if we wait for those drivers. Soon they will gain enough confidence so they will not to stop inside the roundabout any more. See Animation 5

QWhat do I do when the driver in front of me is too timid at the yield line?

Be patient and wait for them to choose their safe gap or change lanes and go around them. Try to avoid honking your horn because it tends to cause timid drivers to make mistakes.

QWhile I am waiting for my turn at the yield line I am not sure what to do about the pedestrian crosswalks.

See Animations 3 and 6. Do not block the pedestrian crosswalks. First, you become an obstacle for pedestrians. Second, it is to your advantage not to stop in the crosswalk because waiting behind the line gives you more space to change lanes.

QWhat can we do about people who do not yield?

First, practice defensive driving like you would at any other intersection. Second, be sure to follow all the yield rules yourself, because other drivers will learn by watching you. Don't let a driver who stops convince you to enter in front of them. If we all provide the right example by following the yield-at-entry rule, the other drivers will eventually learn. Finally, if you become aware that more enforcement is needed, contact the police department and let them know about your concerns.


QWhat is the right speed to drive through the roundabouts?

In dry conditions, you should drive 15-20 MPH. Remember to drive smoothly because other drivers need to accurately judge your speed to choose safe gaps.

QDo I really need to slow down below 15 MPH when it is icy?

Absolutely. When it is icy, you will need to go slow enough to be able to stop at the yield line and to control your vehicle through the turns.

QWhat can we do about people who speed?

Roundabouts are designed to keep speeds low. However, some drivers will attempt to speed. So, like any other intersection, you should practice defensive driving. Other drivers can learn by your example, so be sure to drive at a safe speed yourself and drive smoothly so other drivers can easily judge your speed. Finally, if you become aware that more enforcement is needed, contact the police department and let them know about your concerns.


QThe roundabouts are nicely landscaped. Are there any special rules for using a roundabout during maintenance activities?

Drivers should be aware that routine landscape maintenance is common at roundabouts. Be courteous and drive cautiously when maintenance personnel are present.

QHow to I provide input on roundabouts to Anchorage's transportation planners?

Go to our comments page.

Specific Questions about the Roundabouts on Dowling Road   TO TOP

QHow do I turn left toward the freeway/frontage road?

See Animation 12. It is simple, get in the left lane before you enter the roundabout, and follow the guide stripes into the proper lane as you make the left turn.
Proper lane usage when engering onramp or frontage road
To avoid problems, don’t turn left across the guide stripes or you will end up in “LEFT ONLY” lane. Should you end up in the “LEFT ONLY” lane, just make the U-turn and come back around again -- DO NOT attempt to move right from the “Left Only” lane.

Reminder -- get in the left lane before you enter the roundabout. You MUST be in the left lane to make this turn. You MAY NOT turn left towards the freeway from the right lane.

If you are confused, watching the animation will help, or give us a call.

QHow large of a gap do I need to enter the Dowling roundabout?

You will have to use your own judgment based on the vehicle you are driving, the weather conditions, and traffic flow around you. At Dowling Road a passenger car generally has a safe gap if vehicles coming from the immediate left have not yet cleared their yield line and if vehicles coming from the opposite side have not yet started to turn left in front of you. However, it is always your responsibility to select a safe gap before you cross your yield line.

QAre there two lanes around the roundabout?

No, see Animations 1 and 12. At Dowling Road, there are two lanes on each approach to the roundabout, but those lanes do not go all the way around. Like many other intersections, the lane assignments are specific to your direction of travel. Look for the regulatory signs (White Signs with Black Arrows) and the directional arrows on the pavement.

QCan I change lanes in the roundabout?

You should not change lanes once you cross the yield line and are in the circle. If you need to change lanes, do so before you get to the yield line. At Dowling Road, you may change lanes between the roundabouts in the straight roadway under the bridge.

QDo I have to be in the left lane to turn left?

Yes, with one exception. See Animations 1 and 12, and when you are at the roundabout look for the regulatory lane use signs (White Signs with Black Arrows) and the directional arrows on the pavement. Like many other intersections, the lane assignments are specific to the direction you are going. The only place where you may turn left from the right lane is the freeway off ramps, where the signs specifically allow you to do so. At the off ramps the left lane is signed as a “LEFT ONLY” lane, and the right lane is allowed to either turn left onto Dowling Road or go through towards the Frontage Road.

QI use the freeway and take the northbound off ramp to get to Dowling Road. Can you tell me how the lanes work?

See Animations 1 and 12, and when you are at the roundabout look for the directional arrows on the pavement. Also, this answer applies to both roundabouts because the lanes are the same.

If you are headed east, use the right lane. Be sure to look for pedestrians before you turn right. If are headed west, two lanes are allowed to turn left at the off ramps. The inside lane is a “LEFT ONLY” lane. If you are getting off the freeway to get on the frontage road, make sure you use the MIDDLE lane.

When you get to the yield line, remember that you will always yield to traffic in the roundabout coming from your left. Two lanes of traffic will be headed towards you from your left. Vehicles in the inside lane have the option of turning left in front of you or going straight on Dowling Road. Whether you are in the LEFT lane or the MIDDLE lane, you must yield to vehicles turning left towards the freeway onramp.

QI sometimes get trapped in the inside lane. What should I do?

Just go around once and try again. When you make the U-turn next to the bridge there should be plenty of room for you to move to your right.
See Animation 12

Choose your lane
Flash | Quick Time

Roundabouts are one way
Flash | Quick Time

Slow down at your approach and
yield to vehicles in roundabout
Flash | Quick Time
Vehicle in right lane, exits right
Flash | QuickTime
Do not stop in roundabout
Flash | QuickTime
Always yield to Pedestrians
Flash | QuickTime
Do not walk to central island
Flash | QuickTime
Bicycle commuters use paths
Flash | QuickTime
U Turns are easy
Flash | QuickTime
Give large trucks plenty of room
Clear way for emergency vehicles
Flash | QuickTime
How to get onto the On-Ramp
Flash | QuickTime
Compare Signalized Intersections
Flash | QuickTime

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Animations coordinated by
Lounsbury & Associates and created by Homestead Graphics.
Updated November 30, 2004