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Thread: Traffic Lights - Odd Question

  1. #1
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    Traffic Lights - Odd Question

    Some might consider this an odd question but I am serious on how you handle this.

    I have returned to riding after several decades. I work second shift and half of my riding is at night after midnight when there is sparse traffic. All the traffic intersections that are controlled by lights in my area SEPA, now have sensors under the pavement or beside the traffic lights (when I rode before all intersection lights were timed). At night the suspended sensors pick up your headlights and the lights are set to change. If they only have the sensors under the pavement, the timer senses the metal in the vehicle and the lights are then set to change.

    Here is the problem, I have several intersections on the way home that only have the sensors in the pavement and they are not picking up the metal in my bike (R1200RT). The lights do not change.

    I talked to a local twp police officer last weekend and his advice is that when approaching an intersection, flash my high beams and that should trip the sensor. If they do not have the light sensor, he said I can not run the red light, I have to turn right and then do a U turn.

    That does not make sense to me but that is the law.

    Your thoughts please.

  2. #2
    Sir Darby Darryl Cainey's Avatar
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    This issuse has come up before, you can treat a long light that is senor controlled as a non working light, procede through with caution only when it is safe.
    Ambassador BMW MOA Ontario Canada
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    1977 R100RS, (Retired) 1993 R100GS (just getting started)

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    Hmmm...Interesting approach. Looking forward to other opinions. Thanks.

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    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    The minor factor is state or provincial law. Some jurisdictions' law specifically allow one to turn against or through red lights when sensors do not activate the signals, some jurisdictions are silent. Either jurisdiction may have court decisions which give further guidance.

    The major factor is the view or attitude of the cop who sees you do it.

    My SOP is waiting for two full cycles, then moving ahead into the turn when safe to do so.
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

  5. #5
    Cam Killer marchyman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scalese01@verizon.net View Post
    I talked to a local twp police officer last weekend and his advice is that when approaching an intersection, flash my high beams and that should trip the sensor. If they do not have the light sensor, he said I can not run the red light, I have to turn right and then do a U turn.
    PA law (I just looked it up) says (I think you are in PA):

    (c) Inoperable or malfunctioning signal.--If a traffic-
    control signal is out of operation or is not functioning
    properly, vehicular traffic facing a:
    (1) Green or yellow signal may proceed with caution as
    indicated in subsection (a)(1) and (2).
    (2) Red or completely unlighted signal shall stop in the
    same manner as at a stop sign, and the right to proceed shall
    be subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a
    stop sign as provided in section 3323 (relating to stop signs
    and yield signs).
    (Dec. 21, 1998, P.L.1126, No.151, eff. 60 days)


    I'd let the cop write the ticket without comment and later get the judge to agree that the light was malfunctioning in that it would not recognize my vehicle.

  6. #6
    (Almost) Daily Rider Duster105's Avatar
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    Darryl beat me to it; I was researching the section to make sure I was still correct. I realize this relates only to California, but California Vehicle Code Section 21800(d)1 states...

    "The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so."

    It is entirely likely that your state has a similar 'catch-all' section. Do your research into your state's motor vehicle laws and find out. I carry a printed copy of that VC section in my registration folder, just in case I get stopped for it and have to plead my case to the officer. As a former traffic officer myself, I know all too well that most officers do not have nearly a good-enough knowledge of the traffic code, especially if traffic enforcement is not their primary job.

    Bear this in mind: There are some schools of thought that a sensor-enabled signal light that does not activate to your motorcycle counts as 'inoperative'. There are also some schools of thought that think this section is only for lights that are completely inoperative (ie: completely dark). These kind of violations are very subjective. They are subjective to the opinion of the officer, and subjective to the opinion of the judge who hears the case once the officer doesn't buy your argument. Use this information with a grain of salt, and be prepared to defend your position, but do so respectfully, because it is NOT a black-and-white situation.

    I personally would only use this if I had no other way to access the intersection. I would rather do a right-and-U than outright run the light...my old cop-brain just doesn't let me do certain things. After that, if possible, I just avoid that intersection, if I can. But, I carry that section in my reg book, just in case.

    Good luck with this...YMMH

    EDIT: dbrick's post about waiting 2 cycles then proceeding is actually fairly common in California. I have heard that method mentioned by several riders before. It is not a bad rule of thumb to consider.
    David W.
    Public Safety Professional since 1985
    2007 R1200RT
    Dominus pascit me

  7. #7
    RAINEY 187132's Avatar
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    The AMA has had a few articles about this and also publish law changes by state. In some states you can legally proceed through a red light of it is safe and your are not impeding traffic. The only think is that you need to wait at least 2 light cycles.

    Best regards,
    Jason
    Jason
    Grand rapids, MI
    2012 BMW R1200RT

  8. #8
    (Almost) Daily Rider Duster105's Avatar
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    The other thing I have done with reasonably good results, is that when I find one of these intersections, especially when it is one I cannot (or do not want to) avoid, I will call the Traffic Engineering section of whatever governmental entity owns the lights and let them know that the intersection is not properly calibrated to recognize motorcycles. As it was explained to me, the technology works on magnetic field theory, so if the magnetic sensor is calibrated too high (done to avoid false cycles), it won't 'see' the motorcycle.

    I am very respectful when I do this, and I ask them if they would please check the intersection, explaining that people are actually running the red light because it won't properly cycle. I have even offered to meet them at the intersection with my motorcycle to help them correct the problem (sometimes very welcome if the city/town doesn't have motorcycle cops or ready access to a bike). I haven't had anyone take me up on it, because all my local agencies have motor units, but a friend of mine actually had them take him up on the offer to help test it, so most of these departments really do want to put out a good product, and unless they are just jerks, they will want to make it right.
    David W.
    Public Safety Professional since 1985
    2007 R1200RT
    Dominus pascit me

  9. #9
    Registered User lmo1131's Avatar
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    the intersection is not properly calibrated to recognize motorcycles.
    From a purely mechanical (?) point of view, if you loiter in the center, and on the center, of the pick up field I've found that it tends to trigger the lights better. "Center" is about 10 feet from the end of the field for the most part. Of course, if you can't position yourself there you're screwed, but late at night it shouldn't be too hard. Personally, I'm with the rest of the crew ... I'd blow through it after the count of ten if no other traffic is present.

    "It is what you discover, after you know it all, that counts." _ John Wooden

    Lew Morris
    1973 R75/5 - original owner

  10. #10
    Registered User greenwald's Avatar
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    Cool

    Before you take the advice to treat any traffic control signal that does not detect your motorcycle as 'defective,' and violate the signal, understand that such 'permission' to do so varies from state to state. It is NOT a universal rule to be followed.

    You could easily find yourself getting a ticket, depending on where in the country you decide to violate.

    Sensors have a certain amount of adjustability/variance built into them - their 'failure' to detect your machine is not necessarily going to be accepted in court as evidence of being 'defective.'

    Tread carefully with all this backyard lawyer advice on the forum. Much of it is regional or stems from anecdotal experiences, urban rumor or just wishful thinking.

    FYI - the coils do not detect metal. A passive current is run thru the looped cable beneath you, and ferrous metal varies the current enough for the computer to presume the presence of a vehicle and begin sequencing the signals.

    It does not weigh your vehicle or respond like a metal detector - it's different technology than that.

    Here in Wisconsin, we enjoy the protection of an actual statute that allows us to violate a signal under specific scenarios.

    Such 'protection' is not universal!
    Kevin Greenwald - Touring Tips Editor
    Nationally Certified Law Enforcement Motor Officer (Ret.) / IBA Member #34281
    MSF RiderCoach # 121656 (BRC,SBRC,IS,IME,SMARTrainer)
    Motorcycle/Driving Instructor - ROAD AMERICA Race Track

  11. #11
    (Almost) Daily Rider Duster105's Avatar
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    What KG said...
    David W.
    Public Safety Professional since 1985
    2007 R1200RT
    Dominus pascit me

  12. #12
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    My SOP is waiting for two full cycles, then moving ahead into the turn when safe to do so.[/QUOTE]

    Good advice but the problem is there is no cycling. With sensor controlled lights the major road stays green and the minor road is red until there is traffic sensed that wants to cross. The major light stays green for hours if there is no traffic.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by marchyman View Post
    PA law (I just looked it up) says (I think you are in PA):

    (c) Inoperable or malfunctioning signal.--If a traffic-
    control signal is out of operation or is not functioning
    properly, vehicular traffic facing a:
    (1) Green or yellow signal may proceed with caution as
    indicated in subsection (a)(1) and (2).
    (2) Red or completely unlighted signal shall stop in the
    same manner as at a stop sign, and the right to proceed shall
    be subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a
    stop sign as provided in section 3323 (relating to stop signs
    and yield signs).
    (Dec. 21, 1998, P.L.1126, No.151, eff. 60 days)


    I'd let the cop write the ticket without comment and later get the judge to agree that the light was malfunctioning in that it would not recognize my vehicle.
    Marshyman - I will buy you a beer when you are in Pa. Send me a msg so I can meet you.

  14. #14
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    I experienced such an intersection that failed to trigger here in Northern California with my 2003 R1150RS.

    I called local town offices to determine that this particular intersection (at off ramp from Highway 101N) was actually the responsibility of CalTrans.

    I called CalTrans and had return call from a technician that afternoon. When he said that he was going to "check it out" I offered to meet him with my motorcycle in the event it was a matter of sensitivity setting of the controller electronics.

    Meeting him at the intersection allowed him to first check sensitivity. As he was working on the controller box, there was an instance of a small car also coming to the intersection and subsequent lack of response from the controller. The technician then replaced the controller card, and I performed multiple passes at the sensor section, and all was fine.

    The point is that if it had been a matter of him just increasing the sensitivity with his truck as the test, then he would have thought things were fine and departed.

    He appreciated my taking the time to meet him at the problem intersection and allowing him to come up with definitely a customer solution for my instance...;-)
    JWMcDonald
    2003 R1150RS (current) / 1978 R80/7 (prior)
    1966 R69S (prior) / 1972 R75/5 (prior)
    Windsor, California

  15. #15
    Registered User AKsuited's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JWMcDonald View Post
    I called CalTrans and had return call from a technician that afternoon.
    In New York, if the location is on a state highway, you could try calling the appropriate regional office of NYSDOT. If not a state road, contact the local owner of the traffic light, like a city.

    You could also try doing it in writing, letter to the Regional Director, DOT, or as high up in the municipality.

    Good luck. Many could care less whether a motorcycle trips a light, but it's worth a try. In most cases it's a matter of calibrating the sensitivity to enable detection of motorcycles.

    Harry
    2003 R1150RT - Silver

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