Sunday, January 12, 2014

Montgomery Circle

Today's adventure takes us to the Riverplace neighborhood, on the Willamette at the south end of downtown Portland. If this was a normal website, we'd be here to review a restaurant, or rant about the real estate market, or maybe take up rowing or something. But no, we're here because of a traffic circle. Seriously. I'd sort of realized after the fact that I'd already done posts about several of the city's few traffic circles without it being an actual project. I don't think there's an authoritative list of them anywhere, but we don't have a lot here, and I think I may have covered most of them already without even trying. So I figured, why not do a couple of others and collect the whole set?

If you've ever watched the Tour de France, or most any European bike race, sooner or later the peloton encounters a traffic circle. Usually the riders split and take both sides around the circle, joining back together on the other side. The race usually cuts to a helicopter shot at this point because it's a cool visual. If you watch long enough, you'll notice that each circle typically has something in the center to make it unlike all the other circles in town: Art, a fountain, trees, roses, an Arc de Triomphe, that sort of thing. So there's an aesthetic component to this little undertaking, at least some of the time.

Which brings us to Montgomery Circle, at the corner of SW Montgomery St. & River Drive, next to South Waterfront Park. It's not really a busy intersection, and it's just two streets meeting at a right angle, so -- like most of the other traffic circles around town -- it's here to look decorative and upscale-European rather than to solve a genuine traffic flow problem. Visiting Europeans probably think this is hilarious, and they're just too polite to mention it.

Other traffic circles in town:

This is not counting the miniature traffic circles the city likes to install as traffic calming devices. They aren't really individually distinctive and there's just way too many of them. It would be like writing about each speed bump around the city. That would be way too far down the rabbit hole, even for me.

Before anyone chimes in to try to out-pedantic me, I'm using the term "traffic circle" in a generic sense here. So long as it's a round-ish bit of road, surrounding a round-ish bit of non-road, I'm using "traffic circle" regardless of exactly how its traffic control works. Transit nerds and bike nerds get really wound up about this stuff. It seems that if there aren't yield signs for traffic entering the circle, it's actually a "roundabout", a completely different animal, and roundabouts are more European and generally the One True Way, if only our fair city would give them a try. Etcetera, etc.

flowers, ultraviolet flowers, ultraviolet

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