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Frequently Asked Questions

Armdale Roundabout sign


  1. What is a roundabout?
  2. Roundabouts, rotaries, traffic circles – they’re all the same, aren’t they?
  3. As a motorist, how do I navigate a roundabout?
  4. How will a roundabout accommodate pedestrians?
  5. How will a roundabout accommodate cyclists?
  6. How will roundabouts accommodate the visually impaired?
  7. Why are roundabouts safer?
  8. Why are roundabouts better for the environment?
  9. Why is there landscaping in the middle of some roundabouts?
  10. How will large trucks navigate the roundabout at the Cunard Street intersection?
  11. What are the design plans for the new Rainnie Drive corridor?
  12. Why is Rainnie Drive being reconfigured?
  13. If Rainnie Drive is expected to carry less traffic, where will the other traffic go?
  14. How will a roundabout impact the service dog exercise area on Rainnie Drive?
  15. When will construction start and how long is it expected to take?
  16. Are roundabouts appropriate everywhere?
  17. How is the size of a roundabout determined?
  18. What do the signs at a roundabout mean?


What is a roundabout?

A roundabout is an intersection where all traffic circulates counter-clockwise, to the right of a central island. Entering vehicles must yield to all traffic already in the roundabout. This traffic model has been shown to reduce injury collisions and unnecessary stops, keep traffic moving, reduce unnecessary idling and air pollution and improve intersection appearance.

Roundabouts, rotaries, traffic circles – they’re all the same, aren’t they?

No. Other than sharing a circular shape, a modern roundabout operates much differently than other traffic circles, including rotaries. A modern roundabout requires entering traffic to yield to traffic already in the roundabout. This keeps the traffic in the roundabout constantly moving and prevents much of the gridlock that plagues rotaries. Modern roundabouts are also much smaller than rotaries and thus operate at safer, slower speeds. The design of a modern roundabout allows capacities comparable to signals but with generally a higher degree of safety.

As a motorist, how do I navigate a roundabout?

As drivers approach a roundabout, they should slow down and yield to any pedestrians waiting to cross at the marked crossings. Once clear, drivers should proceed, again yielding, this time to circulating traffic in the roundabout. When a gap is available on the left, drivers enter the roundabout by turning right and then follow the circle until they reach their exit.  

How will a roundabout accomodate pedestrians?

There are no signalized crossings, like in traditional intersections. Instead, there are much shorter zebra crossings on all approaches to the roundabouts, about a car length from the yield line. That means motorists must yield to pedestrians, before yielding to circulating traffic. Pedestrians will cross only one direction of traffic at a time and have curb-protected refuge islands in between crossings. As with all crosswalks, pedestrians should be alert and cautious when crossing and make eye contact with the driver before stepping into the road.

How will a roundabout accomodate cyclists?

Essentially, roundabouts give cyclists two options:

  • Ride like a vehicle: For those experienced cyclists, who are comfortable in traffic, signal your intentions on the approach to the roundabout and merge into traffic. This is often referred to as “claiming the lane.” Cyclists must obey all of the same driving instructions as for vehicles and are advised to watch out for vehicles crossing your path and larger vehicles that may need more space to maneuver.
  • Walk like a pedestrian: For those less experienced, who are uncomfortable riding in traffic, you can leave the road entirely. Simply dismount from your bike at the entries to the sidewalk and walk your bike through the crosswalk or on the sidewalk. If there are multi-use paths available, cyclists can also use the exit ramps to leave the roundabout and connect to the greenway trails nearby.

How will roundabouts accomodate the visually impaired?

The roundabouts on North Park Street will include bright yellow tactile warning strips on each curb ramp to assist the visually impaired. Pedestrians also have the option to cross at the zebra crossing at nearby Cornwallis Street, which has overhead push-button activated crosswalk lights. That crossing has been shortened from 24 metres to a six-metre and seven-metre crossing, with a 3.7-metre pedestrian refuge in between. As well, the visually impaired could use the greenway trail on the Halifax Common or the existing sidewalk on the east side of North Park Street.

Why are roundabouts safer?

Modern roundabouts are generally safer than other types of intersections because of the following characteristics:

  • Lower speed/reduced differences in speeds
  • Simplified decision making/yield upon entry
  • Reduced right-angle and head-on collisions

Roundabouts are designed specifically to direct traffic around the circle at a much slower speed, which provides more time for all users to detect and correct their mistakes. And if a collision does occur, it is often less severe due to the lower speeds. As well, motorists are required to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks throughout the roundabout, and would then have to yield to circulating traffic in the roundabout before safely merging into the desired lane. 

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Are roundabouts better for the environment?

The Halifax Regional Municipality has a “Reduced Idling Campaign” that demonstrates municipal government’s commitment to healthy, sustainable, vibrant communities with clean air, land, water and energy options. Roundabouts will help with this. The longer delays and the start and stop approach to signalized intersections generally have a more demanding impact on the environment.

Roundabouts keep traffic moving at more consistent, lower speeds, which reduces idling, emissions and fuel consumption, and often helps to reduce noise levels.

Why is there landscaping in the middle of some roundabouts?

The landscaping is placed so drivers can’t see across the roundabout. This is so drivers cannot see the headlights of oncoming vehicles at night. This gives drivers a clear indication that there is an obstruction in the roadway and that they cannot drive straight ahead. As a driver, you should be looking to the left, not across the roundabout, to see what traffic is approaching. There is enough sight distance to see approaching traffic.

How will large trucks navigate the roundabout at the Cunard Street intersection?

The old intersection of Agricola, Cunard and North Park street could not accommodate WB-20 or larger trucks turning right from Agricola onto Cunard. That will also be the case with the new roundabout. Instead, trucks entering from Agricola should continue around the circle, going a full 360 degrees, and then exit at the Cunard Street West leg of the roundabout. This will be illustrated through posted signage, as shown below:

right turn trucks


What are the design plans for the new Rainne Drive corridor?

At this stage, access to Rainnie Drive will be provided directly off of Cogswell Street. It is expected to be a one-way street between North Park Street and Gottingen Street with parallel parking on the north side. The existing sidewalks will remain on both the south and north side and a width of asphalt will be dedicated to an active transportation trail. Details of the access at Gottingen Street are still being worked out. Overall, this plan provides opportunities for future redesign, while improving current use of the space with relatively minimal reinstatement costs.

Why is Rainnie Drive being reconfigured?

Changes to Rainnie Drive will ensure the roundabout at the Cogswell intersection will operate safer and more smoothly. Closing off access to Rainnie Drive will simplify the intersection from a five-leg roundabout to a four-leg roundabout. This will also make negotiating the roundabout easier for pedestrians because there will be fewer crossings and it will also improve overall safety because of the reduced number of driver decision points and intersection complexity. Such changes also provide an opportunity to increase active transportation systems and green space, while still providing parking in the area.

If Rainnie Drive is expected to carry less traffic, where will the other traffic go?

Reconfiguration of the affected section of Rainnie Drive is expected to have the most critical impacts at the North Park/Cogswell and Gottingen/Cogswell intersections. Cogswell Street, which runs roughly parallel to Rainnie Drive, would be required to accommodate the majority of traffic redistributed from Rainnie. Given the assumed increase in traffic volumes, additional capacity will be required at the intersection of Gottingen and Cogswell.

Interim intersection upgrades have been reviewed and the recommendation is to modify the Gottingen northbound approach from a shared left-through with exclusive right turn lane, to an exclusive left with a shared through-right turn lane. An eastbound right turn channel on Cogswell will also be implemented. Signal timings will be adjusted accordingly. These upgrades will enable the intersection to accommodate volumes in the short-term (5-10 years) with relatively minimal associated costs. In the longer term, it is expected that additional lane capacity will be required to accommodate additional traffic growth. Diverted traffic will also be anticipated to impact Cornwallis and Cunard streets, but to a much lesser degree than that of Cogswell Street.

How will a roundabout impact the service dog exercise on Rainnie Drive?

With the extension of the Citadel Hill driveway, the fenced exercise area will be reduced in size. This area was not originally located on the Halifax Common or municipal parkland because a fenced off area exclusively for service dogs would be an alienating use of the Halifax Common and contrary to current land-use policies for parks. Municipal employees have been working with the Accessibility Advisory Committee on this issue, and have developed a staff report to help identify another suitable location for the park.

When will construction start and how long is it expected to take?

The first roundabout at North Park, Agricola and Cunard streets will be operational in November 2014. Construction on the second roundabout at North Park, Ahern, Trollope, Cogswell and Rainnie will begin in the spring of 2015.

Are roundabouts appropriate everywhere?

No. Each intersection must be evaluated individually to determine whether a roundabout, stop signs or a traffic signal is more effective. The volume and speed of traffic, the number of pedestrians using the intersection, and additional factors must be considered.

How is the size of a roundabout determined?

The size of a roundabout is determined by capacity needs, the size of the largest vehicle, the need to achieve appropriate speeds throughout the roundabout, and other factors.

What do the signs at a roundabout mean?

Time to slow down

Roundabout Ahead Sign. Time to slow down.

Destination Identify the road destination you want and note the position of the exit leg. Similar to approaching a traffic signal, if you are turning right, enter the right lane; if you are turning left, enter the left lane.
Keep Right

Keep to the Right

Pedestrian Pedestrian Crossing
Lane Designation Lane designation signs represent actual lane configuration. There are various lane combinations possible depending on the design of the roundabout. In this example, the left lane permits left-turn movements only. The right-lane permits both straight-through and right -turn movements. The circular symbol on the left lane designation sign represents the central island of the roundabout and therefore this lane is the inside (left-most) lane.

Yield to all traffic in the roundabout including pedestrians at the crosswalk. Remember that “yield” means you may have to stop. Traffic in the roundabout always has the right of way.

One Way Direction

This sign is located on the center island reminding the driver to travel the roundabout in a one way counter clockwise direction

Lane Exit Flag exit signs are situated on splitter islands and identify each leg of the roundabout. These signs are intended to reassure that you have chosen the appropriate exit leg.