The Three-Way Roundabout

Let me start with an interesting anecdote from earlier days. When I was learning to drive, my instructor took me to a three-way roundabout in Blyth. I knew how to navigate roundabouts by then, so I did what was obvious to me: I gave way to the right. He then stopped me in my tracks and let me in on an interesting observation of his. Because road traffic in roundabouts are only permitted to flow in one direction, with priority given to traffic within the junction, most drivers entering a roundabout choose to give way to the right. After a while, every driver thinks, ‘I might as well go now,’ which then leads all cars in the roundabout to end up in a prolonged dance of pedal and brake. So why am I telling you this story? The strange situation currently experienced by every corner of the world has been triggering a range of emotions and thoughts within us. And regardless of our age or occupation, uncertainty, anxiety, and fear are likely the most prominent among them all. For all our lives, we have been living by certain rules: we can choose where and when to go to work, to shop, to dine out, to have fun… and give way to the right at a roundabout. Therefore, it is a struggle when we are told not to go to work, not to get to the shops, and not to give way to the right.

What do you do at a three-way roundabout? You have three choices.

1. Move ahead, trusting that the other two cars will stop;

2. Stop and wait for the other two vehicles to move first; and

3. Go at the same time as the other two cars carefully, knowing that you must be very careful. In the same vein, how will you choose to act after the lockdown is lifted? You have three choices:

1. Become the first ones to revert to normal life, trusting that most people will wait a little longer and therefore keep you safe;

2. Wait until everyone else has made their move before resuming your daily life; and

3. Match the pace of others, remaining cautious and vigilant as you start heading out again. Which is the correct approach? There is no model answer, but rest assured knowing that you are not alone in having to make an uneasy choice for you, your family, and your business.