Does a cyclist have the right of way in a traffic circle/roundabout/rotary (in the US)? Any tips for riding around one of these scary things?

This past summer, I was riding around a rotary (a.k.a. roundabout) and a driver behind me wanted to leave the rotary, by turning right. Because she was driving faster than me, when she tried to turn right she almost ran into me and had to screech on her brakes - then proceeded to yell "You should have used your hand signals" to me, even though I wasn't turning (I was just following the rotary around). I am almost certain I was following the rules, am I mistaken?

I guess the rules go out the window sometimes anyway, and you have to watch your own back...

2 Answers 2


Yeah, in theory you should ride near the left edge of the right lane (if multi-lane) until you get near your exit point, at which time you mosey to the right -- "own your lane". This is basically the same way you should ride on a road with shoulder when the shoulder converts to a turn lane.

In practice, I suspect I'd be tempted to stop, dismantle my bike, and mail it to the other side at many of the rotaries I've seen.

Keep in mind that folks in the US are largely unfamiliar with these beasts, and are often seriously confused by them. They can easily miss seeing a bike in the confusion.

  • 2
    I was going to give you -1 for misspelling dismount as dismantle, but then I read the rest of that sentence. +1 to you.
    – Kibbee
    Oct 20, 2011 at 3:02
  • Good answer. The number-one thing to do in these is to be extremely clear which way you're going. Whether you communicate that by lane placement or signaling is up to you to decide, based on the situation. Oct 20, 2011 at 3:57
  • "Keep in mind that folks in the US are largely unfamiliar with these beasts, and are often seriously confused by them" - this is especially true in Boston, where all the driving rules tend to go by the wayside...
    – MikeG
    Oct 20, 2011 at 13:25
  • Well, they've actually existed Out East for maybe 60 years. Many in the Midwest have never seen one until maybe the past 2-3 years. Oct 20, 2011 at 18:07
  • Here in Dubai, pretty much every intersection is a roundabout. They still don't understand them, and still think that the person in the fast lane automatically has the right of way, regardless of where you are going to exit. It's more than a touch scary riding through one.
    – zenbike
    Oct 23, 2011 at 10:37

Personally, I just try to take up the whole lane when in the roundabouts, so drivers don't have any reason to think that I'm exiting when I'm not. However, the roundabouts that I traverse on are almost completely devoid of traffic. I think some motorists might get angry with a bike taking up a whole lane (not that they should). Anyway, the rules in my country/province state that you're only supposed to signal (to the right, we drive on the right) when you are exiting, not to signal left when turning left around the roundabout. It's funny that I just did that naturally, but the link I posted also states that you should merge into traffic and take up the lane so cars don't pass you. Bikes can travel about as fast as cars in roundabouts anyway due to increase cornering capabilities.

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