Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bend's Strange Stokenphobia*

The city government of Bend hasn't had many good ideas in the last 25 years, but I can think of at least one: traffic roundabouts.

Roundabouts -- otherwise known as "traffic circles" -- are far superior to four-way stops or traffic signals in terms of both safety and efficiency. They reduce the amount of stop-and-go needed to get through an intersection (thereby improving gas mileage and cutting pollution) and they virtually eliminate the often deadly  "T-bone" crashes that happen when people run stop signs or red lights.

Yet when the city started putting in roundabouts about 12 years ago, the local citizenry was close to panic. Everybody was all, like, "Mah GAWD, Ethel, the cars will be goin' around in circles! We're all a-gonna DIE!"

There are now 29 roundabouts in town, making Bend one of the top five roundabout cities in the United States. Most of them are (naturally) on the ever-so-fashionable west side. The city is trying to sell the voters on a bond issue that would pay for as many as five more. A couple of them would be placed on Reed Market Road, which is one of the few routes from the west side to the east side and experiences Southern California-style congestion during rush hours.

Although anti-roundabout sentiment isn't as prevalent as it was a decade ago, it's still out there. For instance, here's what one letter to the editor in the Source Weekly, our local alternative paper, had to say about building more roundabouts:

"Did one of the [city] planners take a course in college entitled 'Traffic Circles 301' that he, or she, really, really liked? ... [D]o we really want to buy three more traffic circles at $3 million each? ... Enough with the traffic circles already!"

Ah, well. Bendoids, I've observed, do not adapt well to new ideas. Many of them are still trying to figure out what a "Yield" sign means and how to merge into traffic on a freeway.

*No, I did not make that word up. It means an irrational fear of circles.


The Clued Weasel said...

Poor little dears. Heaven forbid they ever leave their little paradise in the middle of nowhere and head over to Europe. We have runabouts everywhere. We even link the things together to make nice, giant roundabouts. Check this puppy out and imagine how a Bendite would approach it!
Roundabouts are far more logical and cost effective than traffic lights. Quite why people have so many issues with them is beyond me.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Part of the resistance to roundabouts here, I believe, is based simply on the perception that they're "European." It relates to the whole redneck "American exceptionalism" thing -- "Amurrica is th' greatest damn country in the world, and we don't need any o' them furrin ideas here!" You see that attitude applied to everything from health care to public transportation to roundabouts.

Anonymous said...

Had mixed results w/ them over the years. In certain applications you find yourself wondering, why didn't we do this sooner?

In others, an accident waiting to happen. Contrary to the sterotypes portrayed here, it's the young 'hip' crowd in Portland that seems to struggle with what ( really IS a basic concept? )

Rather than employ them as a method to save brakes, gas and momentum I've had plenty of younger drivers "play oblivious" and exhibit what I like to call "strategic indifference" and just so happen to "not notice" your bee-yellow 1-ton Dodge pickup?

Many use them to gain centrifugal force and actually come away newly energized. They also attempt to "straighten" them as much as possible. I blame a lack of proper indoctrination and ENFORCEMENT for this! Just b/c there's no sign to 'blow' means everyone is using them 'properly'?

Moreover, why is IT everyone/thing needs to float a bond ISSUE to have this cr@p done? It's a circle. Like my mother used to say "Don't make a CAREER out of it!?"

Weatherwise, coming back from K' Falls.., a DISASTER! 36 deg. and HAILING coming into Chemult. The Pass was a mess the whole way and barely broke the Low 50's coming into Eugene. It's Official: This Spring SUCKED!

Anonymous said...

Quick confession. A few summers ago I was stuck in a caravan heading back from Vegas on 97 N. There was this Land Rover ahead of us w/ this reflective back window like a laser beam. It was blinding!

Finally... got a chance to pass and sure enough, Johnny Law right there on the hill coming into Bend. Thankfully some guy in a Subaru was doing 90 mph to get around 'me'! Johnny went after HIM. I got off at the very next exit ( wife/MIL in car, I know, a riot! ) and promptly got lost.

We must have went thru what seemed like a dozen turnabouts and they all pretty much led nowhere. Without being too much of a backwards hick, they ARE confusing if you're not local.

The intersections aren't clearly marked and at least at the time, the cross-street signs were minimal/non-existent. So not very convenient for out of town LAW breakers! Lol

Portland's 'could' work except the young hip crowd uses them as slingshots to employ centrifugal force to accelerate thru them in their Jetta. Personally, I plan my trips to make as many rights as possible and keep idling to a min. So I like them, we just need to make sure they covered in Driver's Ed. and on The TEST. IMHO

The Clued Weasel said...

Funny you should say that. Almost every week I'm asked where I like living the most - here or in England. When I reply "England", you should see the expressions on their faces. I post on a British expats website and there's a long thread on there about this at the moment. It seems to be a very prevalent attitude. The one who gets it worst is my wife. Most of her friends in the US have disowned her as a dangerous socialist, especially when she extols the virtues of the British health system.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Yeah, what the hell does SHE know about the British health care system -- she only lives there. She's obviously much less knowledgeable than people who get their information about it from Limbaugh and Beck.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Most Americans have never been outside of their own country (going to Canada or Mexico doesn't count) and are very ill-informed about the world "outside," which breeds attitudes of xenophobia and (unjustified) arrogance.

Anonymous said...

TEST Post:

Anonymous said...

"Most Americans have never been outside of their own country (going to Canada or Mexico doesn't count) and are very ill-informed about the world "outside,"

I'll respectfully disagree. What.., maybe in the 1970's you could've said that, not any more. Backpackers, overseas internships, student exchange programs. Seriously, big difference.

When I joined the Navy in 1979, I was the coolest kid on the block. Now everyone w/ a Visa Card has been to El Caribe, South America and many Down Under. College kids today mention going to Europe w/ the same casual ease we referred going to Wisconsin. ( From IL )

If anything, I find the opposite, we're -too- enamored of their culture. Also true most of us couldn't live there for long.

Missing posts, hope this sticks.

H. Bruce Miller said...

"College kids today mention going to Europe w/ the same casual ease we referred going to Wisconsin."

Yes, and it's the college kids (and recent college grads) who tend to be most liberal. Most lower-income and even middle-income Americans who didn't go to college (and quite a few who did go to college) have never been abroad, and they're the core of the Republican "base."

H. Bruce Miller said...

"Also true most of us couldn't live there for long."

Why not?

Anonymous said...


As discussed when HI comes up, most are more than enamored when they first arrive but at the first sign of "This Ain't America Pal!" even the most 'liberal' Americans start w/ the whinning.

What do you MEAN we have to watch the Superbowl on a time delay..? What do you MEAN that trendy little diner doesn't have Wi-Fi? Is open 24/7?

Personally, having spent huge swaths of my life where -electricity- is considered a luxury, like yourself, I could be happy most anywhere. I'm planning a trip to Bulgaria. See old country.

The difference w/ old time sailors is that, we seem to instinctively know what works in the States may not work here? So getting back to roundabouts, I like them. But we need to ensure that's covered in Driver's Ed. AND on the test. Where applicable, I'm totally down w/ it.

Anonymous said...

"Ah, well. Bendoids, I've observed, do not adapt well to new ideas."

( Unless of course it involves "Real Estate Only Goes UP!" housing bubbles and money for nothin'? ) They didn't have any problems getting onboard with that?

Forgot to mention on the trip back from K' Falls it was 36 deg. coming into Chemult and graupeling. Or hailing or whatever. One of the trickiest drives I've -ever- had coming thru The Pass on 58. Never so glad to see Oakridge? This, MAY mind you.

Anonymous said...

Don't want to jinx us, they say we'll hit 72 today in Salem and 76 tomorrow. Of course we'll be back in the low 60's by weekend.

Oh and raining.

Still, it looks as if we've finally slipped Winter's icy grip. If only for a few weeks. In this cursed place.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Gonna be in the low 50s in Bend. Count your blessings.

Anonymous said...

That's your 'High' for the day? Please. Always good to get past those first few days of non-suckalicious weather.

Everyone's frantic scrambling to get everything out from the un-tuned Harley to last year's leaf blower. At once. Hope you get yours soon.

Still, to be in the 50's at this time of year is almost indefensible for local cheerleaders.

JFTR, it's not "a love of b!tching" that keeps me in OR. And it's not a guilty 'pleasure'. Far from it. Wouldn't all of us prefer go back to the early 90's and prior when our weather was a non-issue?

Anonymous said...


The last time we in the Valley had (2) decent days "in a row" was... September?

Kind of like a ball team that was 0 - 36 finally getting back to back wins claiming "they're on a roll!"

Let's not get too excited. 62 and Drizzly tomorrow. What duffers.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Yeah, it's supposed to suck here tomorrow too. Yesterday the weatherpersons were predicting the nice weather would hang around for another day, but it looks like they changed the forecast.

Two days of spring, then back to winter. Damn, this place SUCKS.