News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Commuters navigate roundabouts

Now that the four new roundabouts on Highway 20 between Sisters and Bend have been completed and are in full use, numerous regular users tell of their frustration experienced when drivers enter and exit the dual lane circles.

"Yee gads!," exclaims Todd Robbins who lives in Sisters and works in Bend, making the drive at least five times a week. "It's not that hard. These people need to stay off the road if they can't manage it."

Les Collins from Sisters is a bit more forgiving of the hesitancy and confusion when he comes upon the two-lane roundabouts.

"It took me at least two weeks to get comfortable with it. I was one of those 'people' other drivers glared at," he said, somewhat sheepishly.

The issue say traffic engineers and law enforcement is that roundabouts in general are first, relatively new to drivers and secondly, until now, the vast majority in the county are single lane. It's the two lanes that are throwing drivers. Two in the circle at the same time, side-by-side can be intimidating especially if one is a big truck blocking views.

There are no fewer than a thousand YouTube videos on how to navigate roundabouts, some fairly entertaining. But engineers say the easiest way to manage them is simply follow the arrows on the pavement.

Drivers are so focused on the other vehicles and not the lane markers that many slow down to a point of impeding traffic or stopping altogether when one lane is occupied not realizing the second lane is free.

"That'd be me," admits Cora Donovan. "I kinda freeze when I get in them with other cars."

The frustration of more experienced drivers and the newbies alike are the through vehicles, the ones not turning, the ones taking the second or 12 o'clock exit. Drivers taking the first or 3 o'clock exit are the least disruptive. The most difficult are the 9 o'clock (left turn) drivers who often cannot make it from the outer lane in time.

If you're going straight through - but are hesitant - stay in the outer lane. Allow the more experienced or rushed drivers to use the inner lane. The goal is to keep the traffic moving.

Looking at the illustration above, observe the arrows. Arrows are the key, the secret to getting through smoothly. Don't second guess the arrows, advise traffic engineers. Essential to this however is planning your approach. It's drivers already in the circle without a "plan" that cause the delays.

Line yourself up before getting into the circle. Keep one eye on the traffic and the other on the lane markers. And, experts say, you'll be zipping along in no time at all.

Like the existing roundabouts in Sisters (yes, there are more than one), the new Locust Street/Highway 20 model will be single lane. Site prep work for the new Sisters roundabout will begin within two months.


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