Naming ring roads

Belt, circle, peripheral, ring or round way, which word is the best choice?

Ring roads provide an effective structure for efficient traffic flow and the circle is also an effective structure for navigation. Being able to communicate the circularity of the ring road by name and icon on signs will improve navigation in cities.

The ring concept

A ring road is a large roundabout. Drivers perfectly understand the concept of a ring. The problems arise when the driver does not understand that the road he is on is circular.
Most tourists get lost in Amsterdam because they dont notice that its famous canals are visually straight but physically all are concentric circles. Having this knowledge reduces the chance of getting lost substantially and enables you to navigate without a map.
ring road, signposting, navigation, high way traffic, city centre Walking along an Amsterdam canal you see a straight canal. However, the Amsterdam canals form concentric rings. If you don’t notice concentricity you will get lost.
The same applies to ring roads. They look like a straight line but they go round in a circle. So it is important that the concept of the ring be flagged up with a word together with  some kind of icon that is recognised by the driver to represent the ring.

So important is this concept to understanding that to improve navigation, smart designers even impose ringness on structures that physically are ringless.
ring road, signposting, navigation, high way traffic, shopping mall Smart design: Making the non-circular physical structure of a furniture shop comprehensible by presenting the chaos as a ring.

Source: Ikea.
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Naming the ring road


Several terms are in use for ring roads.
Codes like M60 (UK, Manchester) and A10 (Netherlands, Amsterdam) are convenient for computers and bureaucrats. Sadly, human eyes and brains are not designed to process numbers and numbers do not enhance orientation because there is no relationship between the code and the concept of the ring.

ring road, signposting, navigation, high way traffic, naming high ways Ringness, not indicated, either in words or graphically. ring road traffic sign Ringness, not indicated, either in words or graphically.
The old situation: confusing
One could establish this relationship by using multiples of ten as a code for ring roads with the zero in the number indicating the road is a ring. If this were accepted practice drivers would learn to associate this code with the fact that the road is a ring road.
Periphery
The word periphery (French: Boulevard Périphérique) is closer to representing the circularity of a ring road than a code. Unfortunately it could be interpreted as ring shaped area around a centre whereas it might be a ring in the centre. As a result inexperienced car drivers are liable to follow the sign periphery to get out of town.
ring road, signposting, navigation, high way traffic, paris, france This might be understood as:
To the periphery
It means:
This is the periphery.
Belt
Closer to ringness is the concept of belt. In the US car drivers understand belt way in this context. French and Italians will be confused. French and Italian have also a word that is only understood in those languages (Italian: Grande Raccorde Anulare). Dutch and Germans might conclude that an Anulare is a road that has been cancelled (Dutch: annuleren, German: annulieren). These languages in their turn can confuse foreigners by using the word Gürtel (Vienna) and gordel (Dutch). Gordel is not used on signs in Holland but has the same meaning and would be understood.
More or less that same applies for loop and orbital. ring road, signposting, navigation, high way traffic Donut for decoration?
Donut to indicate ring?
All these words clearly include the concept of ringness but the meaning is not primarily related to traffic and the words are not understood by drivers not belonging to a specific language group. That is a pity because they are the ones that should know they are on a ring road in the first place.
Ring road
These language disadvantages apply less for the word ring. This word has no specific meaning. English, German and Dutch speaking drivers will understand the concept. The word is short and does not take much space.
Circle
The best choice would be circle, which is understood in most languages. It is used by London underground and Singapore public transport which both having a Circle Line.
For navigating in cities on rings there are more concepts than only ringness such as: direction (clockwise and anti clockwise), naming and listing exits, you are here and concentricity when there are more ring roads.Dynamics of traffic and disturbances complicates communication even more. When ringness is not verbalised correctly and not even has an appropriate icon, it is unlikely that these more complex concepts are communicated in a human efficient way.traffic sign ring road Downtown Circulator in Pawtucket, best term selected.
Ring road terms

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