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Going Around In Circles About Roundabouts

SR179 HowToDrive roundaboutSedona AZ (February 7, 2009) – An Opinion by Sedona resident Cynthia Tierra:

In the SVVT (Sedona Verde Valley Times) February 5th issue, Charles Hinkley presented a history behind the development of roundabouts on Hwy 179 and on Hwy 89A and he claims roundabouts are an asset to the community. Public input helped determine the choices that were made, but that doesn’t mean the roundabouts are the best solution to move traffic with ease around Sedona, nor does it make them an asset to our community.

Now that they are a reality, rather than a concept, problems are surfacing. Computerized traffic simulations are very different from real life driving. Those of us who reside in The Village have learned to live with the roundabouts and are used to driving in circles to get where we want to go, since we have four roundabouts in close proximity.

There is a benefit to the roundabouts. Roundabouts eliminate the need to wait at traffic lights or to wait for vehicles making turns across traffic. The pitfalls are many. Drivers have no understanding of how to go through a roundabout because roundabouts are unfamiliar when compared to stop signs or traffic lights.

Local residents may be learning how to negotiate roundabouts through experience, since they have to drive through the roundabouts on a regular basis, but Sedona gets a lot of tourist traffic. Despite the Yield signs, drivers often come to a dead stop before entering a roundabout, even when there are no other vehicles in the circle, or the vehicles are a safe distance away.

Drivers of cars coming from the highway often don’t bother to yield at all or even slow down, creating a potential for accidents, because they assume they have the right of way. As for roundabouts being safer for pedestrians, that’s a matter of opinion. Drivers are so occupied with facing the unfamiliar territory of roundabouts, they seem not to notice pedestrians. It is as if pedestrians are invisible.

Sedona SR89A double-lane roundabouts considered challenging to tourists and residents

Sedona SR89A double-lane roundabouts considered challenging to tourists and residents

Crossing the highway at a roundabout is probably safer than crossing two lanes of traffic, but it still isn’t safe.

At least the roundabouts in The Village are single lane. Once you’re in, you can get around without much trouble. The two lane back to back roundabouts that replaced our familiar Y intersection are very intimidating. I have heard them referred to as the “O-O” and “O-O” is an expression children use to indicate a problem.

Entering these roundabouts when traffic is present requires intense observation of other vehicles coming from two lanes and coming from different directions. Vehicles traveling from Uptown may continue through to the next roundabout, or circle around and exit onto Hwy 179. Vehicles are also entering from the opposite side of the roundabout, potentially exiting at Hwy 179, or continuing to Uptown. Some vehicles are in the outer lane and some are in the inner lane, creating the possibility of vehicles crossing traffic to exit. Not knowing exactly what to expect can raise the blood pressure of a timid driver and challenge even an experienced driver. Just when a driver gets through one roundabout, the next one is right there. Getting through both roundabouts and heading up the hill towards West Sedona, merits a sigh of relief.

Navigating the connected roundabouts makes driving in Sedona stressful.

Objecting to roundabouts is not about resistance to change. The change has been made and it doesn’t work. Life is about change. Life is also about admitting your mistakes, learning from them and making more changes.

A mistake has been made, a mistake that needs to be evaluated and corrected. Driving in Sedona needs to be easy and as stress free as possible. The roundabouts do not make driving in Sedona easy or stress free.

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For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!


  1. Michael Schroeder says:

    It is too bad that there are a few that have a negative impression of round a bouts. The elimination of traffic signals, all the overhead wires and visual congestion has made the Village look much more peaceful and pleasing to the eye. There was there much study and input done on round a bouts. They not only offer a safer intersection by eliminating often fatal or serious “t bone” accidents, they keep traffic flowing even in the busiest of times. As one who has experienced a dramatic increase in them in my old home town of Fishers, and Carmel Indiana, (suburb of Indianapolis) I can say that the issues with rush hour and signal problems have been eliminated. They have been so successful that intersections are being removed and round abouts are being installed everywhere, even on 4 lane highways that get as much traffic during a morning rush hour as highway 179 will see all week.

    Since I live off Back O Beyond road, I experience round abouts in both directions as I often go to the Village. I see many cars from all over the country, and yes, occasionally a tourist will stop before entering, but that is a rare occasion. And if you follow that “tourist” the more round a abouts they enter the smoother they get. People are not stupid, they pick things up pretty quickly, especially the double round a bout in Sedona by the post office. I think, considering these have been in Europe for decades, we should give USA drivers at least the benefit of the doubt that we are as smart as the Europeans.

    Enjoy the safety, the beauty, and the low maintenance cost. They will continue to grow as they should throughout the country.

  2. Darnell says:

    I visited Sedona recently. I have been in many roundabouts, but never in a two lane…so it was terribly confusing. I just played it safe and if there was ANY traffic in the circle, I waited, even if they were in the other lane. I’m still working the two lane thing out in my head and think I understand, but because people aren’t used to multiple lanes in a roundabout (or even single lane roundabouts) I think it’s downright dangerous considering all the tourist traffic that Sedona gets. I nearly had a nervous breakdown as my husband drove through the double lane roundabouts. I thought sure we were going to be hit on two seperate occasions. And I’m sorry that it pisses locals off that tourists stop at the yield sign. But the alternative is that they don’t stop and cause an accident. I think most people are just trying to figure out how the heck the two lanes work, so give us tourists a break. We bring a lot of money into your town, so please, have some patience!

  3. Michael Burke says:

    It’s interesting to understand the stress that roundabouts seem to instill in drivers. If you consider the work of Hans Monderman in the Netherlands who contends that basically intersections are dangerous… they should appear dangerous and people should be mindful when they enter them. The uncertainty that they afford may actually be the reason they are safer because people can’t drive automatically through them like they do on a highway. The research has shown however that 2 lane roundabouts are not as effective.

  4. BillyBob says:

    I’m a little experienced in roundabouts in other parts of the country, and STILL got honked at by impatient locals. What am I supposed to do, pull right in front of a car already zipping through the circle? No. It left a bad impression on me. I saw it happen to others as well.

  5. Barbara says:

    Coming from the UK where roundabouts are the norm not the exception I had no problems with the roundabouts other than this: In the UK if you are going further round the roundabout than straight across you are supposed to indicate that you are doing this and then indicate that you are exiting. This allows the person waiting to see that you are exiting the roundabout and allows them to start making their way across. Personally I love them, they make the traffic flow much better than four way stops.

  6. joan says:

    My visit to Sedona began with me feeling very negative & nervous about the roundabouts, but after one afternoon of driving, I am a believer. Yes, I stopped upon entering my first one because the oncoming traffic seemed to be coming into the intersection so fast, but in no time I got the hang of it. I love how gracefully the traffic flows and was struck with how well the road was designed to preserve the natural beauty of the environment. Yes, one must pay attention going through the roundabout, but that’s how it should be. No texting! I’ve read up on the construction of the roundabouts in Sedona and feel nothing but admiration for the citizens of Sedona for their collaboration with ADOT and their support of this innovative and green approach. Kudos!

  7. David says:

    Roundabouts are not good.. for everyone! I have no problem driving through them. As you can see others that visit Sedona have no experience with them and are not confident driving through them, they can cause an accident. We visit Sedona now and then but lately have considered not visiting because of these (way too many of them) roundabouts.

    I wonder how a pedestrian or a cyclist would get through with out getting run over? ONE roundabout I don’t mind but please remove the rest!!!

  8. runamuck7 says:

    We have visited Sedona many times over the last 20 years, as recently as this weekend, I’m done with it. It’s not that I don’t know how to navigate them, it’s the raised potential of a collision with drivers less than knowledgeable of how to deal with them. Aggressive drivers just make it worse.

  9. Roundabouts are perfect in some situations says:

    They are perfect in low traffic, courteous drivers and people familiar with where they are going.

    That does not apply to most people driving in Sedona.

  10. Wm. D. says:

    Evidence prevails. The dumbest thing was the city to approve Tlaquepaque North without consideration of increased foot traffic crossing a State Highway. And yes, Steve Segner, we all know people have the right to develop their properties. However without foresight of obvious negative consequences isn’t it just plain dumb?

    As for traffic lights versus roundabouts, wake up, Folks! Even prior to Tlaque North there were times traffic had to wait for the light to change three times before getting through the “Y” intersection! It’s hard to fathom how long it would take this day and age with the city’s stupid mistakes. At least w/roundabouts traffic keeps moving if at times only at a snail’s pace.

    Just remember the mess the city made of uptown SR89A, the only section of the state route they own (thank goodness for that). And to this day they don’t get that they own the traffic light up there! They expect ADOT to keep it functional? OMG how much scarier can it get?

    Can hardly wait for this SIM to move along. Any bets it won’t “fix” anything to correct the traffic situation but just create more problems. Inmates running the asylum is becoming an understatement.

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