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These Americans Are Just Going Around in Circles. It Helps the Climate.

“Just imagine a post-Sandy, post-Katrina or post-Andrew world where recovery funds were put to work building resilient, sustainable modern roundabouts instead of rebuilding fragile, polluting signalized intersections,” Mr. Sides, the traffic engineer, said.

The United States has been slow to adopt modern roundabouts, though that is changing somewhat. By one count, they now number about 7,900 countrywide, with hundreds added each year. Still, hesitation remains.

Mr. McBride, who, as Carmel’s city engineer for 13 years, oversaw the construction of nearly 80 roundabouts, said roundabout-curious municipal leaders often asked how to win over the public.

“You can spit out fact-based data, but at the end of the day most of the general population is scared of things that are new and different,” Mr. McBride said.

Roundabouts put decision making in the hands of drivers, unlike much of the U.S. roadway system, which, Mr. McBride said, “doesn’t put a lot of faith in the driver to make choices.”

“They’re used to being told what to do at every turn,” he said.

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More than half of all serious crashes happen at intersections, according to the Federal Highway Administration, which has been pushing the construction of modern roundabouts for 20 years and provides funding for them through highway safety, congestion mitigation and air quality improvement programs.

In the course of promoting roundabouts, Mr. Brainard visited Sarasota, Fla., in 2009, where he said he was met with a roomful of angry people. Among their fears: roundabouts were bad for pedestrians and would cause uneven wear on tires. But Mr. Brainard’s spiel about Carmel’s experiences evidently hit home. Sarasota now has a dozen roundabouts, with another in construction and five more planned, and just this year won the Innovative Roundabout of Merit Award.

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