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What is a roundabout?

What is a roundabout?

A modern roundabout is a circular intersection that does not have traffic signals. It is designed to maximize safety and minimize traffic delay.

Key features
  • Central island: A raised area in the centre of a roundabout around which traffic circulates.
  • Splitter island: A raised or painted area on an approach used to separate entering from exiting traffic, deflect and slow entering traffic, and provide storage space for pedestrians crossing the road in two stages.
  • Circulatory roadway: A curved path used by vehicles to travel in a counter-clockwise direction around the central island.
  • Truck apron: If required on smaller roundabouts to accommodate the wheel tracking of large vehicles, an apron is the mountable portion of the central island adjacent to the circulatory roadway.
  • Yield line: Pavement marking used to mark the point of entry from an approach into the circulatory roadway; is generally marked along the inscribed circle. Entering vehicles must yield to any circulating traffic coming from the left before crossing this line into the circulatory roadway.
  • Pedestrian crossings: Set back from the yield line and the splitter island to allow pedestrians, wheelchairs, strollers and bicycles to pass through.

Adapted from Federal Highway Administration, Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, Report No. FHWA -RD-00-067, June 2000

Traffic flow  
  • Low speed on approach
  • Approaching vehicles yield to traffic already in the roundabout
  • Vehicles drive counter-clockwise and always to the right of the central island
  • Low speed on exit
  • Continuous movement of traffic


Exit locations in the roundabout

Roundabout ahead. Reduce speed to 30 km/h

Yield to traffic in the circle

Indicates direction to follow in the roundabout


For more information on roundabouts, download Navigating Roundabouts [PDF – 432 KB] or e-mail

How to use a roundabout as a pedestrian

Pedestrian Crossovers are situated at most roundabouts, allowing pedestrians the right of way over vehicles. For more information on Pedestrian Crossovers, please refer to the Pedestrian Crossover page.

Roundabouts are often safer for pedestrians than intersections that use traffic signals. At a roundabout, a pedestrian only has to cross two sections of one-way traffic, which is moving at slow speeds. A pedestrian crossing at an intersection with signals must deal with vehicles turning right or left on green, and turning right on red. Some vehicles run the red light, which may result in injuries or fatalities for pedestrians.

At a roundabout:

  • Look and listen for approaching traffic. Choose a safe time to cross from the curb ramp to the median opening.
  • Walk on the sidewalk/path at all times.
  • Never cross the circular roadway to the central island.
  • Cross at the designated crosswalk.
  • Look in the direction of the oncoming traffic and wait for an acceptable gap before entering the crosswalk.
  • Proceed to the splitter island (median) and use as a refuge. Look in the direction of oncoming traffic and wait for an acceptable gap before crossing.

Adapted from Federal Highway Administration, Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, Report No. FHWA -RD-00-067, June 2000.