Video: How do people navigate the new traffic circle on Anza & 23rd? Not well.

KRON TV’s Stanley Roberts captured some very entertaining footage of drivers “behaving badly” and having problems with the new traffic circle at 23rd and Anza.

We reported on its installation earlier this year, and despite the circle having been finished, landscaped, and signed with instructions, drivers clearly are not quite “getting it”.

As Roberts points out in the video, some of the confusion lies with it not being a standard traffic circle in that there are stop signs (which many drivers simply ignore and roll through). Usually, a traffic circle is installed at an intersection without stop signs to help slow drivers down, as they’re required to navigate around it. But in this case, drivers seem to interpret the circle as a sign that they don’t need to stop.

SFMTA better rethink these traffic circles, especially since their Central Richmond District calming project calls for more of them on Lake Street at 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 17th, 21st, and 24th Avenues.

Thanks to reader Kim for sending in the video.

Sarah B.


  1. A 4-way stop sign (or even 2-way!) would have sufficed.

    Crossing the street on foot becomes especially harrowing as you never know what drives in either direction will do.

  2. This “circle” has be a reason for people to race around it multiple times. I live in that area, and now I hear more racing than before the circle was put it. Also it cause parking spaces to be taken away. Parking there is bad enough and now there are at least 3 – 4 less spaces!

  3. The ‘rolling stops’ are what you see at every intersection, everywhere in the city. I’m not convinced the traffic circle has anything to do with that.

    I’d venture a guess that if you sat at any 2-way stop intersection in town for enough time, you’d get people speeding through, almost colliding, edging out too far, punching it when they shouldn’t, etc. I’m not convinced the traffic circle is responsible for that, either.

    I’m maybe not as convinced as I was before that the traffic circle would do it’s job, perhaps it’s just going to end up being a pretty planter box in the middle of the street. But all the dumb maneuvers I see people doing in this video, I see at other intersections without traffic circles. If anything, maybe it’ll improve the infamous ‘making a U-turn in the middle of the intersection, oops I didn’t leave enough room so now let’s do a 7 point turnabout while everyone else thinks about what a moron I am because I’m too dumb to go around the block’ thing you see so often.

  4. The whole point of roundabouts is to make intersections more efficient, having stop signs and crosswalks at a roundabout defeats it’s point. The idea of a roundabout is that you don’t have to stop if there’s no one coming round the roundabout already thus preventing brake wear, saving gas and increasing traffic flow.

  5. Well, since people don’t bother to stop at stop signs anyway, I guess the point is moot.

  6. I told you months ago this was a bad idea, I feel bad for the residents that live close to this concrete fiasco – increased racing at night, I believe it. Poor planning all the way around, I agree with Citizen, a four way stop would have solved the problem.
    Now they’re planting some greenery, how long before that becomes a dumping spot or an eyesore with dead plants? I give it until summer!

  7. The circles should be larger. Get rid of the “Stop” signs, as well

  8. The fact that drivers are still able to speed while going through the circle suggests that the circle should be larger than it is. That said, I still like it, if only because it breaks up what is otherwise a large, dreary expanse.

    I don’t see how it would lead to increased racing at night. If they can do it with a circle, they can do it even more easily without one.

  9. I grew up in Parmerced, in San Francisco. There are nothing but roundabouts there and people driving in that neighborhood seem to get it.

  10. Slowing down car traffic so they have to stop at every block is not a solution. Cars slowing down, idling while waiting for a group of unorganized pedestrians, and then accelerating back up to speed wastes gas and is not green– there is a reason why federally posted EPA fuel economy mileage is worse in City than Highway.

    Allow motorist to get where they need to go as well– as bikes and pedestrians. That IS the best traffic calming solution.

    Design simple traffic controls so cars drive at an optimum speed continuously as much as possible. It will save gas, money, and calm motorist which will ultimately help the environment, pedestrians, and the community.

    No Gimmicks- Cars are not going away. It is not feasible to do all errands by bike or walk. Why are we 2nd class citizens?

  11. I think that in roundabouts you are supposed to slow down and yield to traffic coming from the left.

  12. This is not surprising at all. I hope they realize these traffic circles are a fools errand. While driving down lake street yesterday afternoon, I saw a kid learning to ride his bike in the nice wide bike lane one Lake street. The envisioned traffic circles on Lake will be a mess and will force cars to swerve into the bike lane. I hope DPW chooses to save its money and not follow through with the rest of these traffic circles. These streets are really not wide enough to support real traffic circles and these hybrid things are a silly idea. That is my 2-cents….

  13. It’s not a roundabout, it’s a traffic circle. If you want to see the difference between a traffic circle, a rotary (UK roundabout) and a modern roundabout (UK continental roundabout), search http://www.k-state.edu to see pictures. And here’s another site that shows the difference between an older roundabout/rotary and a modern roundabout: http://tinyurl.com/bzf7qmg
    The FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhHzly_6lWM ).

  14. I’d question the sanity of learning to ride a bike on a street like Lake, instead of, you know, turning north and doing it on one of the dead ends where people don’t drive.

    A kid is more likely to lose their balance and fall into traffic than a car swerving into the bike lane.

  15. This is not very complex. But, perhaps we need crossing guards to help out. They could wear those cool orange jackets and everyone would be safe and learn how to use the system. Some days, they would hand out cookies.

  16. I’m all for the cookie idea. The intersection would be jammed up so badly by cookie seekers that us normal folk would just avoid the area altogether.

  17. This traffic circle was not well planned. The street is not wide enough and also traffic on Anza now have a false sense that they have the right of way. I live a block up on 24th and Anza and I am now avoiding this circle at all cost. I don’t dare to drive or walk at 23rd Ave. Being a pedestrian is very dangerous. This circle is only a block away from Alamo elementary school. Do we really have to wait for a casualty and lawsuit against the city and driver before the circle is removed??!! Please Supervisor Eric Mar, I hope you are reading this. Let’s be proactive instead of reactive. Thanks. My 2 cents.

  18. One might argue that immediately tearing out a traffic circle because of a hypothetical is being reactive.

    Speeding, unsafe drivers always think they have the right of way. The traffic circle has not changed that.

  19. JR, very well said.
    Sadly, our city approach to transportation is simple: make drivers life difficult enough and hope that they will will switch to biking and public transit. It’s very near-sighted. Not everybody has a luxury of being able to bike or take a bus. If we continue making the city undriveable we will continue losing families with kids to the suburbs.

    I’m all for making the city even more bike-friendly. I’m all for the efficient public transit. But it doesn’t mean it should be done at the expense of the drivers. It doesn’t have to be either-or. We have 8 wide East-West streets, that’s more than enough real estate to comfortably accommodate everybody.

    You want dedicated bus lanes on Geary? Fine, but let’s move the traffic to some other streets, make it easy to drive there, preferably with one-way streets. It’s a win-win.
    Removing driving lanes from Geary, but thinking that “traffic calming” measures on other streets would somehow make the extra cars disappear is foolish.

  20. If the SFMTA is for something, I am presumptively against it. I would run for office solely on the platform of dismantling it.

    I’d just like to point out how nice the circle looks. Particularly next to the moonscape of asphault. I’m soooo glad that they are planning like 20 more of these things. I heard that they put these all over the city in the 70’s, but then ripped them out because people kept hitting them.

    Also, just another median garden for the city to neglect or bill the neighbors like the trees.

  21. Annika,
    If 24th still has stop signs, which it does, Anza traffic does have the right of way. It’s a traffic circle, not an all-way yield on entry modern roundabout.

  22. If people can’t be relied on not to crash into large, immovable, concrete objects, then they certainly can’t be relied on not to crash into small, soft, fleshy objects, and the best thing we can do is to install additional traffic circles. That way, people who are incompetent at driving will identify themselves, not just to society at large, but to themselves (as they may not be fully aware of their own incompetence), and they will be motivated to become better drivers.

  23. As a biker, I wish we had circles all along Anza. Because of all the annoying stop signs on Anza, usually that I share with no one, I take Geary on my commute back home from downtown. Geary, where the lights are all timed, is at least 10 minutes faster than Anza. I’m sure drivers would prefer that I not share Geary with them, but just because I’m on a bike, doesn’t mean I don’t want to get home any slower than if I was in a car.

    Lets see more of these circles please, less stop signs. The wide street grid avenues were meant for circles.

  24. Traffic circles are proven to reduce crashes while also minimizing delay. To give up on these because people “don’t get it” is shortsighted and similar to saying kids should just wear velcro shoes because they “don’t get” tying their shoes with laces.

    Or maybe people who don’t “get” circles are should just stick to velcro shoes. They’re not hard to figure out.

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