Columbus Circle named World's Best Roundabout

  • Columbus Circle

    Columbus Circle  (iStock)

  • The Basin, Wellington, New Zealand

    The Basin, Wellington, New Zealand  (Roundabout Appreciation Society)

When it comes to traffic circles, the first is still number one.

The Roundabout Appreciation Society has named Manhattan’s Columbus Circle the world’s best.

The British organization is made up of about 500 enthusiasts who voted for their favorite roundabouts from around the world, ultimately bestowing their Global Gyratory Galactico Award on New York City’s iconic landmark.

The top 12 finalists will be featured in the society’s 2014 calendar, and include circular roadways from Oman, Nigeria, the Faroe Islands and New Zealand, whose Basin Roundabout is so large it encompasses the country’s national cricket field.

That’s the sport, not the insect.

Although the winners were primarily chosen for their aesthetics, society president Kevin Beresford (aka: King of the Rings) tells he’s a huge fan of Columbus Circle and thinks Americans should be proud of their innovation.

Completed in 1905, Columbus Circle was created by businessman and traffic safety pioneer William Phelps Eno, and while there is some debate on the subject, it is widely considered to be the world’s first proper traffic circle.

The island and roadway surrounding it have been reconfigured several times over the past century, most recently in 2005, but still incorporate the statue of Christopher Columbus that was erected on the site in 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his first voyage to America.

Located at the southwest corner of Central Park, traffic feeds in and out of it at seven points, and a large pedestrian plaza in the middle is presently ringed by a series of fountains and benches.

Long a fixture of European roadways, roundabouts have seen a resurgence in the United States in recent years, as traffic engineers employ them more frequently in place of stop sign or traffic light-controlled intersections to improve traffic flow and safety. Studies have found that their use can reduce fatal crashes by up to 90 percent and improve traffic flow by a third.

Even America’s favorite arbiters of scientific fact and fiction, the Mythbusters, put the flow theory to the test in a recent episode, and determined that it does hold water.


Closer to home, Beresford’s favorite English roundabout is a typically quaint example in the town of Otford, Kent, that has a duck pond at the center that is said to date back to Anglo Saxon times.

With all due respect to Mr. Eno, surely the ancients rode around, rather than through it, as well.