Many traffic signals today won’t turn green unless loops in the pavement or video cameras detect a car sitting at the light. I’ve noticed that this detection often fails for bicycles, however. If there is a bicycle lane, there may not be a separate detection zone or loop to pick up a bicycle in the lane. With or without a bicycle lane, pavement loops might not be sensitive enough to pick up your bicycle.

We can discuss strategies for dealing with these issues in another post, but first I want to hear from those of you who ride on the road. Is this a problem in South Florida? Maybe there’s so much traffic that there’s always a car waiting at the light beside you. We invite you to share your experiences in the comments section. Have you ever sat at a light that won’t turn green because you’re the only one there and it doesn’t recognize your bicycle? If so, what did you do? Change directions? Move to the sidewalk? Hit the ped button? Run the light? Storm City Hall waving your bicycle in the air? Please share with us, and let us know where you’ve had this problem.

I’m currently involved in a discussion with an area county engineer on the subject, so the more I hear from you the more I can use to support my case for improvements to signals.

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6 Responses to Traffic Signals and Bicycles

  1. Camilo says:

    I sometimes change to the sidewalk if it really seems like it’ll be safer/muchmuchfaster.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/bicycling/comments/a0jkx/do_you_guys_stop_at_red_lights_in_traffic_if/c0fadbr

    This reddit thread really does have some good advice on triggering the lights, though at some intersections, it remains a crapshoot. I’ve had pretty good luck in South Miami, though, even intersections with US1 eventually change for me. Staying on the corners of loops works pretty well.

    That said, in some intersections, the roads seem to have changed without taking the loops with them, so the loop will end up far away from the actual intersection (keeping you from seeing everything that goes on in the road) or is inside the intersection (keeping you from getting to the corner).

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  2. M says:

    I live in South Beach and ride to work everyday in Mid Beach. Many times cars are present to trigger the stoplights, but about half the time I have to press the pedestrian crosswalk button to trigger the light. It is annoying.

    I moved from Tucson, an extremely bike friendly city. There, all streets with bike routes had a button made especially for bikes at the edge of the street so bicyclists could just reach out and press it to trigger the light. There was never a need to get onto the sidewalk for anything. Something like that here would be a welcome change and perhaps serve to educate drivers and encourage more bikes.

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  3. TR says:

    There are personal fixes - admittedly this is not ideal, but it’s good to know that we aren’t beholden to the city to take care of things. Also, the gate at my last job was activated by the same way and I found that zig-zagging over the line with the front tire leads to a trigger of the system. Haven’t had an opportunity to try it yet in Fort Lauderdale.
    Here’s an example of a workaround:
    http://www.instructables.com/id/Traffic-Light-Trigger-for-your-Bike/step1/Dremel-as-needed-between-the-lugs-of-one-heel/

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  4. James D says:

    Yes, I’ve run a light on my bicycle. Precisely once. No, I don’t live in Florida (or the United States for that matter). It was 2am. After waiting long enough to realize I hadn’t triggered the sensor, I pulled forward and looked both ways for the non-existent traffic.

    But I suspect that’s a typical scenario: at most times you can expect someone to be on the roads, but between about 11pm and 6am (or 9am on a Sunday), there’s so little traffic that you might as well make the traffic lights flash amber and have a four-way stop.

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  5. mr jones says:

    I’m up in Fort Lauderdale…

    I have a problem at night with optical sensors. I can never seem to set them off myself. If there are any cars in the area, I’ll wait for them to set it off, if not, I’ll just cross when it’s safe.

    Other than that, I have no problem as A) I can trigger them or B) there are cars setting off the lights. (majority of the time, it’s B)

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  6. Prem says:

    I ride in many parts of NW Dade county (think of Downtown as the SW corner of my zone) and find myself running red lights many times a day.

    I tend to use sidewalk/button when either the rightmost lane is also a Turn lane (not exclusively a turn lane) or when there’s too much traffic perpendicular to me.

    I don’t ever change my direction because if I’m waiting for a light to change it’s because I have to cross a street and going down a block or two won’t solve anything except perhaps bring me to a stop sign instead of a light, which of course is pointless because in that case I just wait at the light for the traffic to loosen up enough for me to pass.

    I often cross roads in a manner that many would find reckless, but I’m comfortable with my abilities and do what it takes to get where I’m going.

    All that being said, I question whether pedestrian cross-walk buttons work at all on many intersections. And the “loops” (first time i’ve heard that term, good to know it’s got a name) don’t work all that much better in many areas.
    If you’re pressing a button, or if you car is definitely on a “loop” it should not take more than a few seconds for the light to change, especially when there is no perpendicular traffic.

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