Surrounded by Traffic: Residential Building Sits Dead-Center Inside Roundabout

Look, if anyone is going to sit here and tell you city planning is simple, it won't be me. I mean, I have my fair share of hours spent (wasted?) playing SimCity in its various iterations, but that hardly makes me an expert. Well, I'd venture to guess whoever came up with this idea has an even lower level of expertise than that.
Roundabout in Penywaun, Wales, UK 7 photos
Photo: Google Earth
Roundabout in Penywaun, Wales, UKRoundabout in Penywaun, Wales, UKRoundabout in Penywaun, Wales, UKRoundabout in Penywaun, Wales, UKRoundabout in Penywaun, Wales, UKRoundabout in Penywaun, Wales, UK
You only need to look at this image once to feel a sudden and irresistible urge to slap yourself in the face. Either that, or you'll be rubbing your eyes in disbelief that something like this really exists - and not in some remote part of the world used by movie writers to set their made-up conflicts in because nobody's heard of it, but in the very United Kingdom. Granted, it's Wales, but still, you would expect better.

Just in case someone needs explaining what they're looking at, it's an apartment building built right in the center of a roundabout. It is located in Penywaun, in the southern part of the country, and while it probably goes down unnoticed with the locals already, I wouldn't be surprised if it turned into something of a tourist attraction if enough people heard about it.

First things first: what is a roundabout? Well, it's a clever solution someone came up with a reasonably long time ago to deal with the problem of two or even more (as is the case here, too) converging roads in the most effective way possible. Instead of having the cars intersect their paths at various angles, they all enter a big circle and spin around until they reach the desired exit. It is officially proven to offer a better traffic flow than four-way-stops and its efficiency only goes up as the complexity of the intersection grows.

But why is it wrong to have a residential building in the middle? First of all, think of the poor people living there. Roundabouts are designed to keep traffic flowing, so there's probably very little respite in terms of noise and pollution. Add the fact roundabouts don't have road crossings toward their center (no need since there's very little there usually other than grass or trees). and you're left with a building that is only accessible by car or by taking a significant risk.

Then there's the visibility issue. Roundabouts work best when you can scan as much of the intersection as possible so you can plan for a smooth insertion. It's why the center is usually kept clear. You'll need a very tall vehicle if you're going to see over the three-storied building, so it's more likely that a good portion of the junction will remain hidden.

Finally, while roundabouts are generally very safe – that tends to happen when everyone's going in the same direction – there is the odd situation where some drivers ignore the round patch of ground in the middle and simply plow straight through. There's this example from Braila, Romania (see embedded video below) I keep coming back to because it does a very good job of showing what can potentially happen. And, let's face it, it's also spectacular as hell.

I found the whole situation so intriguing that I ended up installing Google Earth to see what the place looked like in the past. I was convinced there was no way the building was erected after the roundabout, but rather the other way around. It was the only way to make sense of it. Surely, the roads had to once been laid out differently, only for the local authorities to decide a roundabout was a better solution. And it wasn't like they could just move the nine-apartment building.

The Google service only goes as far back as 2001, and I can tell you the whole area looked pretty much identical - houses, roads, everything. According to reports from local media, residents aren't exactly thrilled by the circumstances, but there's little they can do about it, and that includes moving since finding a buyer for the apartment should prove a challenge. Despite living inside a three-exit roundabout, the situation must seem like a closed loop to them.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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