Lesson of the Day: ‘These Americans Are Just Going Around in Circles. It Helps the Climate.’

Featured Article: “These Americans Are Just Going Around in Circles. It Helps the Climate.” by Cara Buckley

No American city has more roundabouts than Carmel, Ind., which has 102,000 residents and 140 roundabouts, with more to come. The roundabouts not only make the roads safer, but they also help to reduce the effects of climate change.

In this lesson, you will learn about the history and benefits of the roundabouts in Carmel. Then, you will identify and redesign an intersection in your community that is unsafe or causes unnecessary traffic.

What is traffic like on the way to school or work? Does your city or town suffer from too much traffic?

Roundabouts are road intersections at which traffic moves around a circular area, instead of using stoplights or stop signs to direct traffic. In the featured article, you will learn about how one city is using roundabouts to improve safety and help the climate. Watch this short video of a roundabout in Carmel, Ind. What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. Why does Carmel have so many roundabouts? What are some of the benefits of roundabouts?

2. How did Jim Brainard, Carmel’s mayor, become interested in roundabouts? What obstacles did he face while trying to place them in Carmel?

3. How do roundabouts help traffic flow and keep streets safer for cars, bikes and pedestrians?

4. How do residents in Carmel feel about the roundabouts? What about outsiders?

5. What are other ways that Mr. Brainard, and the city of Carmel, try to mitigate the effects of climate change?

6. What does research reveal about carbon emissions at roundabouts?

7. What kind of scrutiny has Carmel faced because of its roundabouts? How has the city responded and tried to better equip drivers as they navigate roundabouts?

Consider traffic flow and safety in your own community: Is there an intersection that is difficult or dangerous for cars, people or bikes to navigate? Once you have identified an intersection, follow the steps below to redesign it.

1. Find a bird’s-eye view of the intersection on Google Maps. You can take a screenshot of the map, or print it out, to make your edits.

2. Look closely at the map to identify the problems with the intersection. For example, you can use different colored arrows for cars, people and bikes to label the flow of traffic. What do you notice about the traffic flow? What seems to be causing the problem or problems?

3. Once you have identified the issues, redesign the intersection, either using your Google Map screenshot or a blank page. In your new design, you can add, subtract or change features, such as roundabouts, stop signs, traffic signals, sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals, footbridges, bike lanes or something else.

Share your completed design with your classmates. What is your reaction to your classmates’ designs?

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