Kyklohodophobia [His word]


To the Editor:

It seems to me that Americans have had many things to fear in the past decade or so. It’s a natural thing. Fear has always been a part of the human set of instinctual survival skills.

Some things we have come to fear or have feared in the recent past are rational, some are not. The list is long: terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, Muslims, Christians, atheists, socialists, communists, liberals, conservatives, people who want to take our guns, people who have guns, rich people, poor people, climate change, Al Gore, and on and on. You get the point.

But this letter is about the fear of a single lane roundabout — I call it kyklohodophobia. (Pronounced key-klo-ho-do-phobia) kyklo from the Greek word for circle, and hodophobia for fear of road travel ) (Yup, I made part of it up, but it fits.)

Now, I can hardly blame people for developing this condition . After all, this intersection has, in this paper alone, been compared to the infamous Chevy Chase circle in Washington, D.C (It has 24 lanes. To be fair, ours by the same count would have 8 ), the Sagamore circle (I noticed they didn’t replace it with 4-way stop signs). And I have even read about a writer to this paper who almost got in an accident in a roundabout in Scotland (where they drive on the left, and making a simple right turn is confusing for the uninitiated). The list of reasons you could possibly fear this intersection are endless if you put your mind to it.

The people who should really fear this however are the people who own gas stations on Martha’s Vineyard. (I could not find or even attempt to make up a word describing this particular phobia — future comments welcome.) They stand to lose the most if this simple concept is actually implemented. The reason is simple physics. Every car that comes to a complete stop rather than go through that intersection at 20 mph wastes a small amount of fuel to get back up to 20 mph. Not much, but the math shows that a gallon of fuel is wasted for every 350 cars or so that have to stop rather than roll on through at 20 mph.

Is it really necessary for every car to stop there at 10 pm in January? Add another gallon of wasted gas for every 40 cars that wait in stop-and-go traffic for five minutes to get to the existing 4-way stop sign in the summer. Not to mention the inconvenience of waiting the five minutes.

I digress here, but for the argument that says, “If you get through the roundabout faster, you will just have to wait at the Triangle in edgartown, or at State Road,” I say, “What if I am not going to either of those places?” And let’s keep in mind that there are not long waits at either of those places most of the year.

Please excuse me for addressing the most irrational argument I have heard against this project, but I just had to. I don’t know how many cars go through that intersection in a year, but we are easily talking about saving thousands if not tens of thousands of wasted gallons of gas with a simple roundabout. (Gas station owners shudder here.) Everyone on the Vineyard has been through a traffic circle to get here, unless you have taken some round about way. You have done it before, and if you suffer from kyklohodophobia, I have some suggestions that may help.

1) Don’t drink and drive. 2) Hang up the phone, 3) Pay attention. It will be okay, you can do it. Of course, some people just have neophobia, but that will ease as time goes on. I personally have macrophobia (fear of long waits). I have developed this phobia over the last few summers, and it seems I get symptoms every time I get near that intersection. I hope a rational decision by the powers that be will help make my particular phobia a thing of the past.

Please people, take a deep breath and remember, it is only a single lane roundabout. You will get through it.

Don Keller

Vineyard Haven