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Date added: 12 September 2012

40 Years Of Magic! 

Swindon's world famous roundabout is 40 years old this month - TELL US YOUR MEMORIES
 
Born and bred Swindonian Graham Carter celebrates the 40th anniversary of Britain's most extraordinary traffic islands and explains why it is a signpost to the past, the present and the future.
 
I sometimes like to cast my mind back four decades and try to imagine what was going through the minds of the men from the Road Research Laboratories when they created Swindon's world famous Magic Roundabout in September 1972.
 
I'd like to think that, sometime during their discussions, one of theresearchers turned to a colleague and said: "You know - it's so crazy it might just work."
 
If he did, he was right. It does work, and it has been working brilliantly for 40 years.
 
So let's not make any mistake about this: the Magic Roundabout is a miracle of logistics and a work of true genius. Repeat: genius.

Magic Roundabout Swindon 40th Anniversary
Calyx

In the quarter of a century that I've had a driving licence, I've been through there about once a day, on average, and rarely have I had to pause to queue.

Indeed, the greatest testimony to its efficiency is you are much more likely to tackle lines of traffic on your way out of it than your way in - because other junctions, further along your route, don't process the rush hour traffic as efficiently as the daddy of them all.
 
Here is the convergence of four busy urban roads, a residential street and the exit of a football ground car park. One of the roads feeding it is a six-lane dual carriageway.
 
And yet, even at peak times, the beast processes traffic as effortlessly as a supercomputer adds up infant school sums.

Magic Roundabout sign
Which way to go?:
a sight that's struck terror
into visiting motorists since 1972
 
It's overlooked by a major fire station, and the town's busy ambulance station is only a stone's throw away too, but don't worry about flashing blue lights being delayed. That thing wouldn't delay a travelling circus.
 
Now, you could be excused for thinking that coming from a town that is perhaps most famous for a big traffic junction would be a bit of an embarrassment. You might think: is that it? Is that the best thing about Swindon?
 
In that case I would urge you to spend a few minutes seeing what sort of magic we make here.
 
The Magic Roundabout was conceived with such vision and insight, and works so well, that you could say it symbolises the spirit of Swindon. This is a place with a history of making things work.
 
It was here that the greatest steam locomotives of the world's greatest ever railway, the Great Western, were conceived and built.
 
Swindonians have also made Spitfires, world record-breaking jets and pioneering hovercraft, and in an era when industry and manufacturing are thought of as things that Britain used to do, in Swindon we are still at it.
 
Honda cars - they are the town's biggest private employers - and panels for BMW Minis are made in Swindon.
 
We do big ideas, too. Nye Bevan came to Swindon for inspiration when he was drawing up arguably the greatest big idea of them all: the National Health Service.
 
So call us innovative if you like, but that would be an understatement. You shouldn't be surprised to find an invention like the Magic Roundabout here; you should have expected it. And if you didn't, it's probably because we tend to be too modest about what makes Swindon tick.
 
It should be noted that the aforementioned GWR Works at Swindon produced the first locomotive to go through the 100mph barrier (the City of Truro), but railway officials kept it secret for years, for fear that we would be considered frivolous.


Olympic Torch: 
and when the Olympic Torch came to Swindon,
it just had to visit our most famous landmark! 
 
After all, although Swindon-based and Swindon-born engineers were pushing the boundaries of transport back then, and the GWR was synonymous with precision, power and speed, we never lost sight of the principle that the journey is always more important than the arrival.
 
Life shouldn't just be about getting from A to B. Not if you can get from A to B in style.
 
And so it is with the Magic Roundabout, except it doesn't just get you from A to B in its own unique style, but will take you to C, D and E as well, if that's where you're heading.
 
And wherever you are heading, do not fear

If you Google 'Swindon Magic Roundabout' before you come, take no notice of the babbling of those who think it will drive them round the bend.
 
Words like 'mad', 'confusing' and 'scary' abound, but if you ask me, the real genius of the Magic Roundabout is its simplicity. That's right: simplicity.
 
Swindon Magic Roundabout at Christmas
Lighting the way:
the 2008 Christmas tree on the Swindon magic roundabout
  
It may look like a nightmare to navigate, but it works on just one fundamental, easy-to-understand, easy-to-remember and easy-to-apply principle, which is this: give way to the right. Or as nervous American tourists might say: 'yield'.

Nothing could be simpler.
 
No need to worry that the outside lanes run clockwise, like normal, but the inside ones go anti-clockwise. Just go with the flow and give way every timeyou come to a dotted line. Then you've cracked it.

If all else fails, just follow me - because I'm from Swindon.

People from Swindon know where they're going.


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