How To Navigate A Traffic Circle / Roundabout

Posted by: Kenny Chan onApril 17th, 2010

5 Road Traffic Circle at Mackenzie Towne

Pictured above is the traffic circle located in Mackenzie Towne. While most of the “traffic circles” in Calgary are of the miniature single lane traffic calming variety, this one is a dual lane version connecting five roads together. The traffic circle was built not only to move traffic more efficiently than intersections with traffic lights, but also to move the traffic in the area with a higher degree of safety. With traffic all going in the same direction, head-on collisions and right angle (t-bone) accidents are prevented. The environmental benefits are there too since there are no cars stopped at red lights with the use of a traffic circle.

Thats great! properly designed roadways to handle traffic is a rarity in Calgary. Just look at how many new “interchanges” have lights. Mackenzie Towne residents know the real reason why the city prefers to build interchanges/intersections with traffic lights. Many drivers don’t know how to properly navigate a traffic circle! When uneducated stupid drivers enter the traffic circle and drive all the way around the circle in the right lane oblivious to the drivers honking at them, the traffic circle goes from efficient roadway to fancy looking roadway with long queue of cars waiting to get through.

This handy little guide is for all the frustrated drivers out in Mackenzie Towne who are sick of drivers that don’t know how to navigate a traffic circle. Hopefully people will read this post and share it with people they know who drive in the area.

1. Before arriving at the traffic circle, figure out which exit you will be taking as it will determine which lane you should use. You may actually use either lane but we’ll get into that later. Traffic flows counter clockwise in the traffic circle, so on this particular traffic circle there are 4 exits, and 5 technically if you want to go back the way you came from. If you plan on exiting on the first 2 exits, you’ll want the right lane. For exits 3 and 4 (or 5), you should be in the left lane.

2. Drivers in the left lane inside the circle have the right of way. Drivers in the right lane inside the circle should be exiting the circle. In point 1, I mentioned that you could use either lane to navigate the circle but that the left lane should be used if you are heading to an exit that is past the 2nd one. If you chose to use the right lane, you MUST yield to traffic that is in the left lane that need to exit the circle.

3. When entering the circle, wait for cars to pass and enter. If you are in the left lane, stay in your lane and go to the inside lane of the circle. When you reach the exit you want, stay in your lane when exiting. Remember, you have the right of way and traffic in the right lane should be yielding to you. If you entered from the right lane, exit the circle in your own lane. If you want to proceed past an exit, simply yield to traffic in the left lane that may be exiting and continue through to your exit.

That’s all there is to it! If you find everything all too confusing try to remember this:
1. Cars on the inside lane of the circle (left lane) have right of way
2. Cars on the outside lane of the circle (right lane) must yield to cars on the inside of circle who are exiting
3. When exiting the circle, stay in your lane

It’s great that the City of Calgary is looking at ways to improve our roadway system both for drivers and for pedestrians, but in this case I feel there needs to be a stronger educational campaign involving driving schools. Perhaps the test should include a quick trip to the traffic circle in Mackenzie Towne!

Feel free to add anything that was missed by leaving a comment to this post. Also, if you feel any of this is inaccurate, please share!

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  1. DNSRadio says:

    It amazing how many people do not know how to use these.

    I have been around this one and there are soo many drivers that dont know what they are doing.

    I think it should be mandatory to take a road test on one of these, so that people know how to drive in them.
    Otherwise we are going to continue to have dumb drivers on the road.

  2. Noel says:

    I love those people that just bomb along in the right hand lane…right outa er’ those people’s whole lives are lunch breaks

  3. justincalgary says:

    Are you positive about the outside lane usage? I never use the outside lane if I am going more than one exit. I get pissed off when someone passes an exit when they are using the outside lane.

  4. tilly says:

    Driver’s Education simply need to put traffic circles in their tests so that those who don’t know how to use them FAIL. Perhaps they are the ones we should be blaming for all the inexperience and idiocy?

  5. jdmSiR says:

    +1 for

    “I think it should be mandatory to take a road test on one of these, so that people know how to drive in them.
    Otherwise we are going to continue to have dumb drivers on the road.“

  6. Kenny Chan says:

    They should remove parallel parking from the driver’s test and make proper merging and navigation of traffic circles a part of it instead.

  7. blibbertibs says:

    justincalgary, it’s safe to use the first and second exit with the outside lane because the inside will be using the 3rd and 4th.

  8. blibbertibs says:

    What am i saying? i meant, the inside will be using the 2nd and 3rd (assuming it’s a 4 exit circle). therefore, the inside and outside can both exit on the 2nd without causing any trouble.

  9. clem24 says:

    And remember to USE YOUR TURN SIGNALS!!!! Signal LEFT to go INTO the traffic circle, signal RIGHT when you want to go OUT. Too often I find drivers have no clue and just use their right signal, while going right past exits.

  10. boostedAudi says:

    THE OUTSIDE LANE MUST EXIT…. i have been in a car accident in that traffic circle, i was in the inside lane and went to take my exit when the guy in the outside lane smashed into my rear end when i went around…HE was at fault and the police man clearly expalined to me and the other guy how the traffic circle works Thus meaning if your in the inside lane take the next exit, dont keep going around till the one you need, if you need a differant one GET INTO THE INSIDE LANE… ugh ssome drivers are stupid

  11. justincalgary says:

    “Thus meaning if your in the inside lane take the next exit”

    I think you mean the outside lane.

    When I am in a really pissy mood, I’ll stick my front end out into the outside lane a bit to force people to not use it, but to turn off or stop. I’m an ass, but so what. I don’t care if the rule says 2 stops, it just isn’t safe and it should be the first exit you come to.

  12. Conan says:

    Spent two weeks in France last month, including one week with a rental car driving around west of Paris (Do NOT drive in Paris, even if you’re the best driver in North America, you can’t keep up).Lots of roundabouts, and people seem to know how to use them. Here’s another tip–if you’re entering the traffic circle, you don’t signal unless you’re changing lanes or exiting. If you go in with your right signal on, people assume you are exiting at the next exit.

    A few other nice things over there, like the Gendarmes will pull people over for hogging the left lane (or not getting back right as soon as possible). Also Transport Trucks aren’t allowed to pass cars, and Pickup trucks towing trailers are restricted to 110 (thus generally the right lane) or even 70 in windy areas, so you don’t see them trying to fly down the passing lane at 121, boat swinging wildly, thinking no one else has a right to pass them (only saw two pickups there the whole time, and both had trailers).

  13. John says:

    This rule is not universal. Don’t try that in Hong Kong.

  14. Mike says:

    Great info, now only if we could get it blown up and placed at all the roads coming in to the traffic circle. It’s so bad that I’ve actually given up on trying to use it and now exit at 130th or 22x.

  15. Susan says:

    Everyone needs to read this link to the Government site with the Official Traffic Circle rules.
    Any discussion about only using the outside lane for the first or second exit is wrong. Yes, if you are continuing on in the outer lane to the 3rd and 4th exit, you are taking a risk, but it is allowed. I have only lived in Mckenzie Towne for a year and it is very scary. Not to mention how irate people get. For example, this evening someone waiting to get into the circle honked at me because I was in the outside lane in the circle and didn’t exit when he expected me to. I only went to the second exit, which is my personal rule. I wasn’t signalling and he was on his cell phone. I always ensure when I’m in the circle using the outer lane that I am behind the inner car so that I can see their signal light, if they use it.
    I don’t know how we get the word out about the real rules. I know there are drivers not following the rules all over the place, but I find that people get very upset and honk and gesture all the time around this circle. Road rage…

  16. melinuxfool says:

    Traffic in the circle has the right of way, and follow lane-use arrows that are usually painted on the road-way. Rotaries are not that complicated. When choosing your lane, you choose it just like you would if the circle wasn’t there. Left lane for left turns (more than half-way around) right lane for right turns (less than half way around) and either lane for straight ahead (exactly half-way around), and stay in your lane on entry and exit. That’s the way of it where I’m from. Nobody should be going more than half-way around a rotary in the right lane any more than someone should make a left turn from the right lane at a regular intersection.

  17. the dummy who you're all refering to says:

    hey everybody. first and foremost i want to say sorry to the lady who i almost sideswiped as i went around to the 4th exit in the right lane. close call but no collision thanks to her. it made me realize that i didn’t understand the rules clearly. i thought that if she was going to exit she would use her signal, but she didn’t. (not a BIG surprise; we’re in calgary) once she hit the brakes, i realized she was trying to exit. it makes a lot of sense but isn’t everybody suposed to be signaling their intent? not that i will ever drive past 3 exits of the circle in the right lane again (i see now why it’s not a good idea) but do you still have the right of way without a signal?

  18. joe says:

    they need to post a diagram or sign that explain how it works. not everyone lives in Mackenzie towne and it’s not surprising that visitors would have no idea how to use it.

  19. Kenny Chan says:

    At the very least every driver’s education class should drive around that thing a few times. They don’t need to add it to the test but some basic instruction would be helpful.

  20. 403 King says:

    F*CKIN RETARDS IN MCKENZIE TOWNE!!!! Thats all i can say is all those idiots from the east coast still think its some small town “DO WHATEVER THE F*CK U WANT” type of bullsh*t!!! Get with it or get the F*CK out of Mckenzie Towne or simply just don’t use the Traffice Circle EVER!!!


  21. Alex says:

    @403King: I hate to point out your ignorance, but one does not need exit at the next right if driving in the outer lane of the circle. shows the correct usage of traffic circles in Alberta. And despite how many times people agree with you that does not make them right.

  22. 403 King is the problem says:

    What are you talking about????

    Anybody can go in circles until their face turns blue in any of the lanes. It’s a safety tip to exit from the outside lanes within the first 2 exits and take the inside lane if you intend to carry past 2 exits.(

    Because of ignorant Rage Monkeys like you. Instead of driving safely and following the laws in the road, Rage monkeys with assumptions or own interpretations of the laws drive aggressively, honk, swerve, and do a whole pile of civilized cave men actions when you FEEL someone is not driving within your all mighty standards putting everybody around you in danger.

    Take the rubber nutz off you truck, read something other than Hustler, and bone up on a topic before you extrude your intelligence upon this earth. At least if you never use the traffic circle agian, there will be some lives saved!

  23. Its Simple says:

    The government doesn’t know how traffic circles are supposed to work. 403 King is right

  24. Ben says:

    who gives a sh*t if the government knows or not how a f*ckin traffic circle is supposed to work, you really wanna f*ck with the government? the government is quite capable of f*cking you over, and you wanna screw with that? just because YOU don’t like the rules the government makes?

  25. Rich says:

    Don’t blame the drivers. There is much contradictory information out there plus none of the government websites i have found have anywhere near the detail as this original post does even though it is a very straightforward explanation.

    Exiting using the left lane seems to be one of the major points of confusion. Other sites say you can’t exit from the left lane that you must change to the right lane first (see I don’t think this makes sense though since there are two lanes for exiting plus I don’t think it is pracitcal to change lanes in a small roundabout – no time!

  26. Matt says:

    Just be glad its not a magic round a bout

  27. Here's the deal. says:

    Here’s the deal. Based on the links provided from the Transportation Alberta Website, It’s “Recommended” you take the first available exit when entering in the outside lane, but it is NOT “Required”, simply because… Since the Inside lane is not taking the first exit, it is safe to assume they are exiting within exits 2,3,4 or 5. Therefor allowing the outside lane to exit WITHIN the first 2 exits and no more. Whether you are entering the circle in either lane, both lanes are required to yield to whichever cars are in the circle already regardless of lane. It’s common sense people, use your heads.

  28. Kevin says:

    Well, after reading this article and all the comments its no wonder people are confused about how to use these? There are contradictions left, right and center between the original article and some of the comments. Guess if there is one “authority” to follow it might be the AB govt. rules, at least here in AB. Also, not sure how long these circles have been around in AB, but it could be that most drivers over the age of say, 25 or 30 never had the opportunity to learn how to use these when they took drivers ed. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn how, but it was all new to me five years ago when I moved here.

  29. Ker Chyau says:

    All drivers who have passed and obtained an Alberta Driver License would have learned how to navigate a round-about following the Alberta Traffic regulations as stated in the Alberta Basic License Driver’s Handbook (see page 72). A number of you including myself may have not agreed with these regulations in regard to navigating a round-about in particular where vehicle H at the outside lane must yield to vehicle G at the inside lane who is to exit the round about(see page 72).

    As more and more drivers will follows these official rules, you will have to drive with care to avoid accident. If you are the driver of the vehicle G and get involve in an accident on exiting the round-about, you can point it out to your insurance company the official Alberta traffic regulations and you will not be at fault.

    My suggestion is not to drive at the outside lane unless you are planing to exit at the next exit. Note that there is no mention of restriction on the number of exits you are allowed to keep driving at the outside lane. The only restriction for cars on the outside lane of the circle (right lane) is it must yield to cars on the inside of circle who are exiting.

  30. Ker Chyau says:

    I would like to clarify my concerns in previous comment with regard to navigating a round-about in particular where vehicle H at the outside lane must yield to vehicle G at the inside lane who is to exit the round about(see page 72).

    Although the vehicle H at the outside lane is allowed to keep travelling in the circle, it is clearly stated in the Alberta Basic License Driver’s Handbook (see page 72) that it must yield to vehicle G at the inside lane if vehicle G is going to exit the round about. This means vehicle H may have to stop for vehicle G. If there is a continuous flow of exit vehicles from the inside lane behind vehicle G, the outside lane will be jammed up due to the stop of vehicle H. The certain stop of vehicle H inside the circle can also have a chance to be knocked by the vehicle from behind.

    This is a known problem with dual exit. So drive carefully with anticipation. Remember that the vehicle at the inside lane has the right of way to exit the round about in a dual exit situation irregard if it is 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th exit.

  31. bob smith says:

    Its like a video game…the closer you are to the centre the more power you have.
    You use your power to leave the circle by turning on your right signal.

    Inside lane trumps outside lane
    Outside lane trumps the entry.

  32. tom says:

    Its really fascinating to know the number of people who are not well aware of such traffic circles. Properly designed roadways like these are great way to handle the traffic. As you have rightly mentioned that these are eco-friendly as they save fuel (and also time) by avoiding the traffic lights. It also some how give relief to those who are in habit of not stopping at the red lights:). One thing that it might lead to is increase in number of people getting speeding ticket calgary. never the less, I think these kind of road management ideas should be encouraged.

  33. Steve says:

    the only reason why there`s so many people using this round circle in a different way: This is probably the only round circle in the world I know working like that ( I’m not pretending I’ve visit the entire planet but enough to talk about it) !!! The way the rules are made are the oposite of every other round circle in the world and totally the opposite of the regular circulation roads; a round circle is nothing more than a road with a round shape and we’re asked to keep our left to turn right… It’s’ a non sense. I think, if the city absolutly wants to make it work this way, they`ll first have to make some improvements like painting a full line going from the left lane of the entering acces to the next exit acces to show it`s mandatory to exit on the fist one. Other thing: you know some people will do it, if you read carefully nothing say they can’t travel in the outside lane; they can do it but they must yield to the left lane. Please stop getting mad or stick the front of your car in the lane: if you do, you’ll be in fault because the first rule is that people in the circle have priority on people not in.

  34. International says:

    To Steve – so happy that someone has mentioned this.
    I’m originally from Calgary and am a little embarrassed by the tone of this article. To call the people confused by this traffic circle “stupid” is just a show of ignorance. I live overseas, and as another reader indicated, there are a lot of traffic circles and roundabouts in different cities that work efficiently and make a lot more sense. This circle is confusing because it is not set up to work properly. Bravo to those of you who use if properly but just so you know, the directions given in this article – and by extension this circle – is just a set up to disaster. There should be no lane changes inside the circle, just as there should be no need to yield to ANYONE once inside because no one will be getting in anyone else’s way. Show a little compassion for the users who don’t understand why this city seems to have special rules. And trust me: a lot of the people that you suggest should just stop using the circle … never come back again. You can keep your corner of the world, enjoy the accidents.

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