When you're meeting someone for the first time, it's not uncommon to ask that person where you're from. When I'm asked this question, I answer "Cape Cod." Massachusetts is too vague, Yarmouthport is too detailed, and Boston is way too inaccurate.
The most common response I get to this answer is "Oh, you must love the beach." In fact, I do not love the beach. But that's neither here nor there. I'd rather focus on the second most common response: "How do you deal with those stupid rotaries?"
Lovely Cape Cod! Beaches and rotaries! A true paradise! Though I hate for the Cape to get pigeonholed like that, it's not an entirely inaccurate description. Cape Cod's #1 industry is tourism (eat it seafood and cranberries!), and the tourists come for the beaches. As for the rotaries, well, we got lots of rotaries. Accoriding to the Internet crutch Wikipedia, the first rotary in America is located in South Yarmouth. Then there are the famous rotaries that control traffic flow by the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges. The Route 28 Hyannis rotary and the Hyannis Main Street rotary are both subject to heavy traffic and have been the scene of many an accident.
These accidents give the rotary a reputation for being periliously unsafe. The bridge rotaries are infamous for tying up traffic. So, no one likes rotaries. To me, that's all gobbelygook. If you know the rules of the rotary, you'll be fine. That means not yielding on the actual circle, you stupid fucking tourists.
Ok, now let me tie this into DC. DC is known for having traffic circles. In other words, "rotaries with obstacles." Rotaries, along with Brazillian street gangs, are the least popular things on Cape Cod. Washington found a way to take rotaries and make them trickier. And more useless. Way to go, city planners.
Rotaries only work if there's a weird intersection. If traffic is flowing from more than four directions, a rotary is probably necessary. Five way stop signs and/or traffic lights don't work. However, when traffic is coming from four directions, rotaries are useless. There's no point to them. Traffic lights could do the work of the circle with far fewer accidents.
Since I'm an American University graduate, let's look at Ward Circle. At Ward Circle there's an inner lane that let's you go straight through the circle. It sounds innocuous enough, but it is straight up retarded.
Imagine that you've never been to DC before. You're going north on Nebraska Avenue. Your goal to take a left hand turn on to Massachusttes (going towards the Cathedral). As you approach your turn, what would you do instinctively? You would get in the left hand lane. Even if you knew a rotary was coming, you would get in the left hand lane so that other cars wouldn't have to cut by you to make their turn.
But not in DC! The left lane going into Ward Circle is a trap! If you take that lane, you're forced to go straight through the circle. And God forbid you make that mistake. If you stop on the circle to make a quick (and illegal) left-hand turn, you will be honked at by unforgiving locals. That's what you get, tourist, for using reason.
Of course, it's kind of the tourist's fault for not reading the road signs approaching the circle. What? There aren't any signs telling you which lane to get in? Really? Well, that's fucking ridiculous.
Another favorite circle of mine is the one off of Massachusetts and Battan. You know, the one with the Embassy of Australia overlooking it. I'm too lazy to find the name for it.* I took a brief little sojourn on my lunch break to check out the circle. I counted over a dozen sets of traffic lights. If you don't believe me, I highly recommend you check it out for yourself. The point of a circle is efficiency. How can you possibly be efficient with over a dozen sets of lights? What are you trying to accomplish with that many lights?
Finally, I present you with the example of 38th and Harrison and Reno. A six-way intersection! Exactly what a rotary or circle was designed for! And what does DC do? No rotary. No circle. A couple of stop signs. After that, you're on your own. I feel unsafe just walking by that orgy of pavement. I can't imagine what it must be like driving through it.
I understand that the city was designed before people were driving around in cars. But couldn't we try to adapt? We built tunnels underneath Dupont for Christ's sake, why can't we do something about all the other Venus-traffic-traps in this disasterously designed city?
This city is poorly designed, at best. Frankly, I consider it perilously unsafe.
* I looked it up. It's Scott Circle.