Truckers' traffic troubles in Bend roundabouts

Tricky, trying to traverse, some say; city planners defend trend

Trucker troubles in Bend roundabouts

BEND, Ore. - "I remember Bend as three or five traffic signals through Third Street," said Ron Cholin, a truck driver with Stinger Transport.

Cholin has been driving trucks through Bend for decades, and one big change over those decades leaves him unimpressed.

"I haven't seen a roundabout yet that I liked," Cholin said.

He's seen the city grow, develop and morph into a roundabout mecca -- or what he calls a truck driver's nightmare.

"They're too small, they're a pain -- they are basically a stop sign for trucks," Cholin said.

We strapped a GoPro camera to the back of a truck to show how it navigates through a roundabout, this particular one at the Butler Market Road and Eighth Street intersection.

"My trailer tires were probably within three or four inches of the curb, and when I went around it to make the left-hand turn, the left tires on this side were within three or four inches from the curb in the center," said Gordon Radabaugh, another driver with Stinger Transport.

"I used up every square inch that they gave me right, there and I was crawling through there at 4 miles an hour," he said.

City street officials said they plan roundabouts with trucks in mind.

"We design them primarily for fire trucks and want to make sure they can get through there, and based on that, then we start designing for different truck types," said Nick Arnis, growth management director for the city.

Cholin agrees that the roundabout designs have come a long way from the original square curbs.

Still, he doesn't want to see more roundabouts pop up.

"I want to see a four-way stop sign or a stop light," Cholin said.

But city officials say through their research has shown roundabouts cut down significantly on the number of bad wrecks.

"You can reduce really serious crashes by 80 to 90 percent with a roundabout," Arnis said.

For both Cholin and the city, safety is the No. 1 priority. And they say drivers need to be cautious, alert and pay attention when driving through roundabouts.

"If you can't see their faces in the mirror or through the window, they can't see you. Try to stay out of the blind spots and give us some room," Cholin said.

Three roundabouts have been built in Bend over the past year, and work is just beginning on yet another.

The traffic circle at Southeast 15th and Reed Market should be complete by mid-November.

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