Friday, August 27, 2010

Circle Mania

The newest fad in Israel? No, it's not pantaloons under skirts or layers and layers of t-shirts or i-pods, i-boxes or any of those things. They're over.
The latest fad in Israel is the TRAFFIC CIRCLE.
Drive anywhere, anywhere in the country just-about. You can't go
a mile without hitting at least one, if not more traffic circles.
In my town, there are
five already with
another two currently under construction (see photo left). Their practical need is much debated here, as it is throughout the world. Europe's roundabouts and the US's East Coast rotaries could leave some motorists shaking.
However, traffic circles are being constructed everywhere in hopes of creating safer driving conditions. Firstly, traffic circles keep all traffic flowing in the same direction. Next, everyone is supposed to slow down. Thirdly, they eliminate the possibility of head-on and right-angle crashes.
Calmer Traffic
Yes, traffic circles work when people slow down. They're called "traffic calming" mechanisms, but they only calm traffic when people take it easy. Drivers entering a circle are supposed to go 10% slower inside the circle. If folks do slow down, then a traffic circle makes it easier for other cars to turn left, for pedestrians to cross the street and for bikers to ride safely along. But if people speed thro
ugh, or they do not give the car in the circle the right of way, circles can be traffic hazards.
Down Jerusalem's Gilo Hill toward the Malcha Mall, there are two traffic circles that are plagued with accidents. There are two reasons: drivers do not slow down and drivers do not follow the circle (they try to go straight through the circle instead).

Function and Fashion
Traffic circles are small, like the one in Efrat's Rimon-Gefen intersection, or they're giant like at the Gush Etzion Junction (pictured at left - it's so big, you probably think it's a round city block, not a traffic circle). My kids say the GE Junction circle is large enough to build a house on (if there wasn't a freeze). Most traffic circles in Israel have olive trees in the middle of them. My kids (who seem to know everything) say that the trees in traffic circles were uprooted by the government when as they were building the Separation Wall. (If we can believe in conspiracy theories, some folks say, the traffic circles began when the Wall began, because the government was looking for places to dump all those uprooted trees.)
There's another giant traffic circle that I know, but that one is just beautiful - the main Bet El circle. It's so large, and landscaped so lushly that it looks like a little tropical island.
Some traffic circles are just lovely, with real modern touches, like the one with the golden pomegranate on Pierre Koenig in Talpiot, or the circle near Achim Israel Mall that has a marble fountain sculpture in the middle.
There are memorial circles, like Efrat's Teina-Gefen circle (at left) that was named in memory of past Efrat Mayor Eitan Golan, o'h. Eitan was dedicated to the growth of Efrat, and worked especially for the development of the Tamar Hill.
The main traffic circle in Neve Daniel (at left) with fake grass and giant metal flowers is also a memorial circle.
According to Neve Daniel resident Naftali Armon, the traffic circle was named after Neve Daniel Mazkir (administrator) Eli Steinberg, o'h. ND's Harvey Poch filled in the rest of the info. "Eli Steinberg a"h, the first mazkir of the town, died on 8 Tishrei two years ago, while still in office. He had been mazkir for 16 or 17 years, and saw the town through several growth spurts. He lived and breathed Neve Daniel and, thoughhe lived in Elazar, his funeral began in front of the Mazkirut building in Neve Daniel. Yehei zichro baruch."
Well, if we've got to have them, it's obviously nicer to have a beautiful traffic circle, and even more, one that was named after people who looked to our welfare, because that's what a traffic circle is all about. But no matter what they look like, the purpose is the same - to calm traffic and save lives.
So, let's try to take it easy around all these traffic circles, drive safely and always go in a positive direction.

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