Yes, it’s true. On the way from Plymouth to Caversham last summer we took a detour to see a traffic intersection. It’s not just any intersection; it is the “Magic Roundabout” in Swindon. The idea behind this intersection seemed crazy when we read about it. Five small traffic circles nested around one large circle. Who thought of that?
In person the Swindon Roundabout just seemed insane–it looks like a large parking lot marked up with a lot of white painted lines. From the ground it looks like cars are spinning around every which way. But somehow it works.
Now that we’ve seen the intersection up close we’re pretty sure that the “magic” in the name might just refer to the mushrooms the traffic planner ate just before this whole thing was laid out. Indeed, in September 2007, the Magic Roundabout was named as one of the World’s Worst Junctions by a UK motoring magazine. In December 2007, BBC News reported a survey identifying The Magic Roundabout as one of the “10 Scariest Junctions in the United Kingdom”.
We of course had to take the car through the roundabout to get the full traffic tourist experience. And in truth, the intersection wasn’t that bad to drive. Even our GPS handled it well. In fact I half suspect that the TomTom programmers had used this particular intersection as practice point. Before we arrived, we had half expected that our TomTom, when confronted with the Magic Roundabout, would flash “the finger” and turn itself off in protest. After all, if anything would send a GPS into an existential crisis, the Magic Roundabout would be it. But it didn’t. The GPS worked flawlessly through the intersection.