Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Doubts About Roudabouts

You want to instill fear into the motoring public?  Public Service Announcements and graphic drunk driving films have little effect, these aren't even broadcast on television in the US. Threats of new laws, fees and fines... ha, that doesn't even faze them.

If you really want to instill fear into the motoring public, mention a roundabout.

Read the article here.

Holy shit!!! You'd think the world was ending in an apocalyptic, horrific, fiery ball of destruction.

This intersection is currently a Northbound and Southbound street (53rd) with Eastbound and Westbound traffic stopping at stop signs. The speed limit on 53rd is 45 mph.

The comments in the local paper make for an interesting read to say the least.
- "I developed an extreme hatred of roundabouts driving in Bend. The Europeans can keep them."

- "The engineer study on this project shows an increase in emissions by placing a roundabout. I was at the meeting when this was discussed. We are not in Europe folks. If you want this move there."

- "Can you imagine four cars traveling at 45 MPH entering this proposed interesection at the same time? Haven't we learned from the fiasco out on the bypass not to listen at all to any advice given the bicycle and pedestrian committee?

Does anyone in Corvallis government have a lick of common sense? Put a (cheaper) stoplight there and call it good."

Way to bury your head in the sand and believe me, there are plenty of stoplights in Corvallis, in fact another one was just installed down the street and the last thing we need is another traffic light. All of them are actuated by sensors, none of them are timed and I suggest the city change their motto to
"Welcome to Corvallis, Home of the Stoplight. Enjoy your Stay".
And where are these people getting this idea that the speed limit will remain at 45 mph entering a roundabout?

I am going to speculate, prejudge and stereotype here. I suspect that the majority of drivers opposed to roundabouts have never used them, don't know how to use them and if they have, panicked and used them incorrectly. Maybe they are simply terrified of having to finally use their turn signals.

Although there is now graduated licensing in Oregon, years ago once you turned 16 years of age, passed a written and short driving test you received your license. So this makes me believe that the majority opposed are over the age of 40, 50 or 60 and have never been re-tested or looked into further driver education. These people have been driving for 25 to 50+ years without ever having to better themselves or their driving behaviour. As roundabouts are a fairly new concept in the US have they recently been added to the Oregon Driving Manual. Now I know that as motorcyclists we are always learning, taking riding courses, signing up for clinics and track days to improve our skills. Right?

These same people are simply unfamiliar with roundabouts, afraid of change and they aren't willing to open their minds, research, read and educate themselves on the benefits or how roundabouts work.

When Brandy and I went to the town meeting last year the engineers mentioned a poll they took when proposing a roundabout in Albany, a neighbouring town. They said the proposal was faced with 90% opposition, but after it was installed and residents became familiar with it a second poll revealed a complete change of heart and the majority polled actually liked it.

New, unfamiliar and change is difficult for people to accept, but you see these opposed to change accept it everyday. Technology is a perfect example, computers were unknown and unfamiliar but now these people who hate change are reading the newspaper online, commenting and participating in real time chat and video conversation on Skype. Facebook, bah! That will never catch on. Cellphones are still not accepted by many, but those who were reluctant at first are not only talking on cellphones they are texting, surfing the web and checking email and updating their facebook status all at the same time and some even while driving.

The reason I post this is because I am curious how you motobloggers in other States of the US, in Canada and around the world think of roundabouts and of the licensing process in your municipality, district, state, province.

Which do you prefer?



  1. I am from Europe and familiar with the concept ;-)

  2. We have a bunch and the only real problem with them are the people who come screeching to a stop (not the expected behaviour) then sit there looking BOTH ways before pulling out. The other problem we have is people don't use their turn signals. I think what you need is a multi-lane roundabout, now there's something to get worked up about.

    As a frequent pedestrian, the only time I've ever been almost run down was trying to cross streets feeding a roundabout. Also, Corvallis has some small, undersized roundabouts so the concept should be familiar.

  3. Agree with your assessment about learning something new. Funny that the comments mentioned Bend. Ron and I spent a long weekend in Bend. At first all the roundabouts drove us crazy, then we noticed how the locals handled them, and by the end of the weekend loved them. Hated it when we had to use a regular intersection or (God forbid) a light! I say bring 'em!

  4. Troubadour:

    we have lots of roundabouts up here but we also know them as traffic circles, most are single lane, but we have a few double lane. It sure beats having to wait at a signal light, plus on a bike I usually speed up and do a quick slalom

    Riding the Wet Coast

  5. Love the area in Springfield by Symantech. There are a couple of main streets with closely spaced roundabouts. What a gas on a bike!

    P.S. I didn't participate in the poll as you asked for riders from other states. I am an "out of this world" rider but live near to you!

  6. BTW, I should come out and say that I voted for the simple, free solution of keeping the stop sign. I agree that riding through traffic circles are a blast but people need to know how to behave....

  7. Both my vehicle and I fume as I sit at a red light. I can't imagine how much gasoline is wasted every day in every state by cars idling and waiting for the light to change to green. But, hold on! Here come some cars from the other direction...just in time for THEIR light to turn red!

    Here in Utah we have an improvement over the standard old traffic light intersection. We have fancy new (so called) "continous flow intersection" where you drive through (or wait at) TWO traffic lights at each intersection instead of one. Twice the fun, half the sense. Give me a roundy any day, I've driven them in Europe, and we have a few here. Much much better!

  8. Greetings from across the pond.

    That is an interesting question.  Roundabout, traffic lights or four-way stop?  Having used roundabouts for decades, I can certainly vouch that they keep traffic flowing much better than the other two alternatives.  They get my vote any day.  However, I need to heap a few qualifications on that simply considered vote.

    In Europe, drivers and riders know exactly what to do at roundabouts.  They know which lane to be in when approaching a roundabout, then know how and when to use their turn signals, plus they know when to stop, when to yield and when to keep going.  This is not due to some excellence in driving skills, but is borne out of lots and lots of experience of using roundabouts.

    Having ridden 21,000+ miles in 27 different states, I can say I didn't see many roundabouts in the USA.  When I did, I most often saw confusion and uncertainty.  I saw a bewildering array of differing signs at almost every roundabout.  I saw people stopping at roundabouts instead of yielding.  I saw dreadful lane discipline.

    I do not blame the drivers and riders.  I blame a lack of good quality consistent design, a lack of consistent signage and no doubt a lack of training.  On a few occasions I did see roundabouts working well in the US, but this was rare.

    In Canada, roundabouts work well.  I imagine they have been using them for years.

    Roundabouts are very good, keep the traffic flowing and save a lot of time.  BUT, it will take years for people to get used to them in the USA given the current confusing arrangements and designs.  If roundabouts are to be introduced more widely, a nationwide standard design of the road layouts and signage is essential.  

    Any change in driving rules is going to be challenging!  I am still not used to four-way stops!

  9. Troubadour:
    I'm with Gary, haven grown up with them in the UK and also in NZ. As you say, all a question of learning, plus Gary's mention of design standardisation.

    Good for dragging your knee, even if you are on the tall Tiger. You'll be fitting titanium sliders to your pants next to trail a shower of sparks :-)

  10. I was curious of others dealings with roundabouts and appreciate everyone's comments. It is as with anything, simply a matter of getting familiar with them, they are inevitable as more and more are designed and installed along the west coast. I did not take into consideration standardization, good call Gary. I only hope drivers take the time to learn how to use them.

    Hmmmm, titanium and blue sparks eh?

  11. Spark away my roundabout buddies! We are getting more roundabouts & traffic circles. Drivers of all things motorized need to update their skills more often, once you know how to approach & execute its easy peasy, and yes, dear drivers you need to use that funny thing in your car that is called a turn signal!

    I am finding in general driving habits are getting worse. Lack of turn signals, shoulder checking and driver inattention is getting worse. No wonder people are freaked out about something new. Silly old rabbits.

  12. Personally, I like roundabouts. Just not here in Georgia. In Georgia we have encountered a couple single lane roundabouts that actually have stop signs before entering. Talk about incongruous. Seems to defeat the purpose.

  13. Loads of roundabouts over here, great fun! Scrape pegs on yer bike and get your car sideways.

  14. I love roundabouts, but if I know the City of Corvallis they don't like confrontation and back down pretty quickly if the people don't agree on something. I'll be surprised if this passes and would put my money on another damn traffic light, adding to the slogan
    "Welcome, enjoy your stay".

    I'll keep everyone posted.


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