Negotiating the gyratory (big roundabout).

I think the technical name for this big roundabout at a 2 level junction is a gyratory. I guess someone will come along and correct me if I’m wrong.

The reason I posted this is because it illustrates an extreme example of where a cycle lane is very dangerous and should be avoided. Like many roundabouts, this one has a cycle lane around the perimeter. Such cycle lanes are dangerous, as pointed out by the Cycling England Design Portfolio on page 3 of section A.13 Roundabouts. Some of the problems it causes follow.

  1. It causes cyclists to be in the roundabout for the longest possible time.
  2. Motorists on the roundabout are less likely to notice a cyclist who is right at the edge rather than in the lane.
  3. It takes cyclists right past the entrances to the roundabout, which is the most dangerous place to be. When entering the roundabout, drivers are very busy: they are looking at the main traffic flow for a gap in the traffic to move into; they are not looking for a cyclist coming along further over to their right.
  4. A cyclist on the roundabout approaching the entrance along the cycle lane may often be obscured by signs and street furniture.
  5. Also, a cyclist passing so close to an entrance has no way to predict whether an approaching vehicle will actually stop, and will have no time to react if it doesn’t.
  6. A cyclist moving round the roundabout needs to negotiate with other vehicles on an equal footing to ensure that everyone knows what is happening. The cycle lane, with its give way markings at every entrance and exit, removes the ability to do that, and the cyclist has to try to dash across each entrance or exit, usually from a standing start, to try to get across when there is a gap in the traffic. This is very dangerous.

When I first started using this gyratory, I used to approach it down the (mandatory*) cycle lane and go all the way round in the cycle lane. Somehow I survived this, but I soon learned that it was really dangerous, so I started to tackle it in the way that is recommended by the Bikeability guidelines and the highway code. (There are some differences between these sources of advice as I will explain later, but in this case the advice is the same.) Here is a video of my passing across the gyratory on one particular day:

Note that, if I had been turning right at a roundabout, the Bikeability advice and that of the Highway Code seem to differ. The Highway Code says that you should approach in the inside lane and stay in that lane through the roundabout, indicating right as you pass each exit, whilst Bikeability says that you should approach in the right hand lane and stay in the right hand lane until you are approaching your exit. In this particular large roundabout or gyratory, I would tend to follow the advice in the Highway Code. If it were a small roundabout, I would be more inclined to follow the Bikeability advice and use the correct lane.


* A mandatory cycle lane is one that motor vehicles are not allowed to enter – ever. It is not mandatory for cyclists to use it. Of course, that doesn’t stop all those motorists illegally crossing the white line and driving in it every morning!

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6 Responses to Negotiating the gyratory (big roundabout).

  1. donk says:

    Yeah I have the pleasure of that roundabout on my commute. I’d suggest dodging it altogether. 2 options.
    1. use the cycle lane (ha! when it’s not got cars in it) 1st exit, immediate right turn, ignore the subway, go up the ginnel to bank lane, then right and onto bolton rd, shorter route and less roundabout hassle.
    2. if you’re feeling brave go down broad st/east lancs. Fastest option but a bit nerve wracking holding primary sometimes.
    Coming home is trickier, use the bus lane downramp off bolton rd to pick up speed enter roundabout as fast as possible, look for a gap to slot into (easier whilst going fast – if there’s no gap you can always brake and wait for one) then move to the right and hold road position until the exit – watching out for cars pulling onto the roundabout right infront of you from manchester rd (that happens a lot)

    • admin says:

      Hi, and thanks for the comment. I have tried that cut through (1.), but I feel uncomfortable using it because the ginnel has “no cycling” signs on it (even if they are covered with algae and difficult to read). I do tend to stick to the main roads in general because of the rising problem of cyclists being mugged. It may be an irrational fear, but it is Salford after all, and there were problems with cyclists having their bikes taken from them a few years ago.

  2. donk says:

    “the ginnel has “no cycling” signs” oops, I didn’t know that. Hmm…trying to remember if I have never noticed them or I had seen them years ago and subsequently ignored and forgotten about them.

  3. There is a roundabout in Chichester just like this with the cycle lane running right past the entrances. It is quite random with some places cyclists have to give way and others they have the right of way. Interestingly if you rode in the traffic flow you would have right of way all the way round (but let’s not go there). Most of the traffic coming on uses the lanes as a place to edge out further, blocking cyclists. I’m a cyclist, but when I’m driving I find I really have to remind myself all the time to watch for cyclists because they’re approaching at an unnatural angle to the entrance requiring you to look much further across than you normally would.

  4. penandpoise says:

    Northgate giratory in Chichester is something I dread. The cycle lane gives way to motorists at every entrance. The angle is such that I have to stop and turn back to check the road is clear which means that I have to start from a stand still each time to move on. Most of the motorists come round in the wrong lane and indicate at only the last minute so “reading the traffic” is difficult. I did abandon the cycle paths to just cycle with the flow of the traffic but on two occasions I have had cars accelerate to cut across me to the exit as we approach. Yesterday the car almost knocked me off the bike and a pedestrian shouted at me to use the cycle lane. I suspect I’ll have to go back to them, while I came online this morning to check whether it was a legal requirement, knowing I’m technically not obliged to use them won’t be much defence against a tonne of steel. In August I move to Germany for a couple of months, hopefully cycling will be a lot less – stressful!

    • MrHappyCyclist says:

      Yes, it is still a problem, especially with the dangerous road geometry that most of our roundabouts have in this country. As it happens, a driver accelerated into the back of myself and my daughter last September as we were waiting to enter this roundabout. You can read about it here: http://www.happycyclist.org/?p=728 with pictures and video.
      Regarding your point about argument with a tonne of metal, I think you are less likely to have to have that argument if you ride out in the roundabout rather in the annular cycle lane. Even in the case where we actually got hit, my daughter, who was to the left and in front of me, came off worse than I did in the middle of the lane; in fact I think my road position saved her from a potentially far worse outcome.
      I’ve cycled in Berlin and, after that and having read stuff from cyclists in Germany, I think you will probably find it is wonderful compared to here.

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