Bike Activated Traffic Lights: Lean for Green

The Corvallis Public Works Department sometimes gets calls from frustrated cyclists who can’t get a traffic signal to respond to their presence at an intersection. Most of the city’s traffic signals (except downtown) are traffic actuated, which means they change from red to green based on the detection of a vehicle at an intersection. The system is meant to work regardless of whether that vehicle is motor- or pedal-powered.

Detection occurs when a metal object stops or passes over wire loops embedded in the pavement near the intersection. While bikes can trigger a traffic signal change, they do not contain as much metal as a motor vehicle. This means that the placement of the bike over the loop is critical. Public Works has painted small bike symbols on the pavement at most intersections outside of the downtown area indicating the best place for a cyclist to stop to ensure detection. To increase their chances of detection, bicyclists should:

– Place the bike over the top of the painted symbol with the pedal crank over the symbol’s center, and

– Lean the bike slightly to one side. This is essential if you have an alloy frame and components.

Sometimes the problem is not the positioning of the bike. Traffic loops, both motor vehicle and bike varieties, can fail and occasionally need adjustment. If you find a traffic signal that neglects to detect your bike after you have followed the above recommendations, please notify Public Works at 541-766-6916.

by Gregory Wilson

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