Testable Hypotheses

By Megan McArdle

If I am driving or biking to work, I pretty much have to go through a traffic circle a few blocks north of the Watergate.  I am a big fan of roundabouts, and wish that America used more of them in place of intersections or interchanges.  Unfortunately, because we don't have a lot of roundabouts here, drivers don't quite get them, and they tend to behave very aggressively--particularly, for some reason, those coming off of K Street. 

DC has therefore placed traffic signs at each entry point to reinforce the obvious:  "Yield to traffic in circle".  This is not, however, what most drivers do.  What they do is play chicken with the cars in the circle-and particularly when I've been biking, they usually win.  It's incredibly dangerous, and unsurprisingly, I travel past traffic accidents in the circle fairly frequently.

My morning commute is thus accompanied by a lot of frustrated muttering.  Do they not see the signs?  Do they not understand what "Yield to traffic in circle" means?

I think this morning I got my answer.  There was heavy traffic coming off of Pennsylvania and K Street, and yet the turn lane onto New Hampshire was miraculously free of cars, the way it is supposed to be, instead of fleetingly populated by a half a dozen daredevils unwilling to wait for a break in the traffic.  Why?  I presume because the third car waiting to come off of Pennsylvania avenue was a cop.

They know what they're supposed to do.  They'd just rather risk their lives . . . and mine.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2010/04/testable-hypotheses/38918/