Place de l'Etoile in Paris - the original roundabout, Source: Unsplash

Europe: The champion of roundabouts. Which country has the most?

Europe: The champion of roundabouts. Which country has the most?

It is the same country where traffic circles were first introduced

Driving into, and out of, a roundabout isn’t always the most pleasant task for drivers but then again when you have more than two streets crossing it seems logical to solve that junction conundrum. Plus, they are more sustainable as they reduce traffic jams and idling, and thus, emissions.

Anyone who has driven in European cities may have noticed that roundabouts are part and parcel of the urban landscape there. And it shouldn’t be surprising as it was on this continent where they were first introduced.

In fact, it happened at a place that most of you might be familiar with, the Place de l’Etoile which surrounds the Triumphal Arch, one of the symbols of Paris. Meaning The Star Square, due to the 12 avenues radiating from it, its shape dates back to even before the French Revolution.

It was also the site of the first carrefour à girations (or gyrating crossroad) proposed by city architect Eugène Hénard, who concluded that with the increasing traffic on the streets of Paris there was a need for a more rule-based crossing of large squares. Thus, in 1907, the first roundabout was inaugurated there officially with the stipulation that vehicles on the right had the right of way.

Traffic circles with rules were then quickly adopted by other European nations. Yet, it is also France that holds the title for having the most roundabouts on its territory. According to Statista, which used some volunteered research as background, there were 967 roundabouts per million residents in that country in 2020. Spain is second with 591 roundabouts per million inhabitants and the UK is third with 489 per million.

Cities with the most roundabouts

Given how the French have embraced the roundabout concept most enthusiastically among other nations, one would expect that this is also where we would find the city with most of the traffic circles. Almost. Nantes, in France, is a city where one in every 23 intersections is a roundabout making it number one in Europe.

However, it’s the virtually unknown city of Carmel, in the State of Indiana (USA) that takes the cake in that ranking, where one in every 17 road junctions is a traffic circle. It even calls itself the Roundabout Capital of the United States.

The rest of the top 10 list of roundabout-loving cities, however, is all filled with European municipalities. Here’s a look:

  1. Carmel (USA, 1 in 17 intersections)
  2. Nantes (France, 1 in 23)
  3. Madrid (Spain, 1 in 30)
  4. Alicante (Spain, 1 in 33)
  5. Valencia (Spain, 1 in 35)
  6. Sevilla (Spain, 1 in 35)
  7. Toulouse (France, 1 in 35)
  8. Bilbao (Spain, 1 in 36)
  9. North Lanarkshire (UK, 1 in 38)
  10. Venice (Italy, 1 in 40)



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