Steven Ames reports in from Bend, Oregon:

One interesting thing about Bend – which if not the most bikeable town in Oregon is pretty good – is its system of roundabouts (RABs, as they call them).  As far as I know, the entire west side of Bend, has virtually no traffic lights, but dozens of RABs. 

 They simultaneously calm traffic and make it flow more smoothly and organically — if that’s the right word.  And they are planned to accommodate bikes.  

I don’t know how RABs measure up energetically (i.e., fuel saved or carbon not emitted) but I can say how pleasant it is driving a car on the westside in that one never has those long, hot idles (as opposed to idylls) at traffic lights.  In one way, it’s too bad there’s no time to stop at a RAB, because every Bend RAB also has public art, some of it spectacular — another good reason to ride a bike.  Turning an intersection into a place for public art is brilliant.

From farther afield, Jean Chong – she of the Third Wave Cycling Blog – is just back from Europe, and sends along some perspective by Jack Becker on “Cycling to the Airports:  Rating the Cycle from Downtown to the Airport”  Also, Jack’s  previously published article on the ease of multi-modal travel in Europe vs. Canada/U.S.  by combining rail and bike.

Cycling in Prague.  Very different experience from other northern European countries. Less cyclists, cycling infrastructure— like our own North American cities, minus kms. of cobblestone. Except aging, rusty Czech trains regularily offer a bike train car per scheduled train.

More here.


  1. My experience suggests that roundabouts are much more pleasant and time-efficient, so long as they’re not full. But once you reach their capacity they become swirling vortices of failure.

    Whereas more conventional stoplights/-signs distribute the failure more equitably across the space of number of users.

  2. Roundabouts may be great for cyclists, but from a pedestrian point of view they are horrible. Just look at that photo and imagine you are a little old lady trying to cross the street. There is the extra distance required to walk just to make it to the other side and no stopping mechanism for the traffic so you are held hostage waiting for a surge of vehicles to pass. Living in Auckland, I see and experience it all the time. Also roundabouts take up more space then typical intersections, the larger the roads converging the larger the roundabout. This creates poor edges for businesses and storefronts, as you can see from the photo.

  3. Ah, a cyclist friend just mentioned how round-abouts would definitely improve the bike lanes on 10th ave and I agree! Too many cars use side-streets to avoid traffic on 12th and broadway and end up making it very unsafe for bike-riders. Also, as a driver, I would prefer round-abouts because when a street is lined with parked cars, it’s really difficult to see oncoming bike-traffic. Alma & 10th was the worst! Coaxing through the intersection STILL lead to near bike/car accidents! It’s interesting how many drivers don’t understand that by making a city more bike efficient this is a benefit for both cyclists AND drivers. But maybe I’m one of the few that readily admits that…

  4. There are definately advantages to roundabouts. Unmentioned here, they are also safer, as cars are forced to slow down when entering the roundabout even when they’re going straight, which means collisions occur at slower speeds. The types of collisions that occur (specifically not T-bone ones) also makes it safer, and I haven’t seen studies on this but I would suspect collisions with pedestrians would also be safer.

    Still, they do cause a fair number of problems as well, as has been mentioned. In Edmonton, the only roundabouts I’ve seen require lights regardless of the roundabout because they’re far too busy, which basically makes the whole design pointless. As well, they can be much more irritating for pedestrians who have to travel around a much longer distance, especially on larger roads. On smaller roads they’re great, but Bend is clearly very different than Vancouver.

  5. From my understanding roundabout are more energy efficient than signals because there is less ideling. But that probably depend on traffic flows and volumes.

  6. One-lane roundabouts can be OK for cycling if they are designed correctly. Two-lane roundabouts are more dangerous for cyclists. They are not great for people who can’t see as there is no audio indication indicating when it is safe to cross.

  7. I happen to live on the Cypress St bike route between 4th & Broadway, where there are three roundabout intersections – at 5th, 7th and 8th.

    The problem I do see with them is that hardly anyone here* understands who is supposed to give way to who, in the way they do for 4-way stops. A lot of the time both drivers and cyclists just assume they can plow on regardless, but OTOH I often also find myself trackstanding for ages waiting for car drivers who have the right of way but don’t realize it.

    It doesn’t help that in most cases there’s no signage to help with this. The big roundabout at 16th and Westbrook @ UBC does have nice clear signs saying to yield to traffic already in the roundabout – I think more signage like this would help.

    That said, I wouldn’t get rid of them, in fact I wish they’d put one in at Cypress & 6th too.

    (* FWIW I’m originally from England where roundabouts are extremely common.)

  8. Just a note that acording to the City, the circular traffic islands used as a traffic calming measure are supposed to be treated as 4-way stops and not true roundabouts.

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