ROUNDABOUTS have become a convenient scapegoats for many of the country's ills. 

Every day, about 60,000 vehicles cruise through the center of Abbeville, in northern France, passing by its Gothic church, City Hall and rows of red-brick houses, with many drivers on their way to the English channel 

But they never stop for a red light. None exist in this town of about 25,000 people Instead, drivers bank, swerve and loop their way through traffic circle after traffic circle.

Their ubiquity in Abbeville is an extreme example of France's unabashed embrace of the roundabout, found in abundance throughout the country and widely credited for making roads safer and less clogged.

Even in Abbeville, on a recent morning, workers in fluorescent orange vests and hard hats were breaking ground on yet another traffic circle, as cars were backed up by the construction.

Roundabouts played a central role in the Yellow Vest protests, when demonstrators occupied hundreds of the nation's roundabouts, blocking traffic as a way to demonstrate against a despised fuel tax increase in particular and a growing sense of inequality in general.

But France's relationship with roundabouts has in some ways soured, their very pervasiveness making them convenient scapegoat for many of France's ills, real or perceived.

Pierre Vermeren, a French historian writing last year in Le Figaro, a national newspaper, said roundabouts were a ''symbol of ugly France'' and the ''emblem of French malaise.''

There are no official statistics, but estimates of the total number of traffic circles in France range from 20,000 to 50,000.
In the United States - about 18 times bigger and five times more populous than France - the figure is closer to 5,000.

For some, the roundabout, a concept imported from Britain in the 1970s and quickly spread by the firm hand of the French state, embodies the unchecked spending of taxpayer money on pet projects by government officials, especially mayors, who in the 1980s took over road management from the central government.

Many officials ''saw the roundabout as a kind of fashionable object,'' said Eric Alonzo, a professors at the Ecole d' Architecture, in suburban Paris, who has written a book on traffic circles.

''I heard from technicians who weren't necessarily recommending that solutions,'' he said, ''but elected officials were saying that, I want one.''

For others, roundabouts are a constant reminder of an over-reliance on cars and have come to symbolize deeper worries about French cultural identity, as urban sprawl and giant malls suck the life out of city centers, killing traditional bakers and butchers.

''Roundabouts have become the focal pint that symbolizes, to the point of caricature, everything else's flaws,'' Mr. Alonzo said.

If there was anyone left in France who didn't have an opinion about them, that changed last year during the Yellow Vests protests.

''The France of roundabouts'' has even become the shorthand way to describe the small cities and towns in peripheral France, where many feel left behind, and where the Yellow Vests protests spontaneously started before migrating to Paris in what became months of often violent protests.

The honor and serving of the latest writings on great and interesting subjects, continues. The World Students Society thanks author, Aurelien Breeden.


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