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Call for traffic light activation buttons

Red-light traffic light

Riders whose bikes won’t trigger a change in a traffic light to green would welcome more of these activation buttons that have been installed at some intersections for cyclists.

It seems cyclists get everything they want from governments. Even their own roads!

In this case, their strong lobbying for these buttons may also help motorcyclists.

They are located on poles close to the road so riders can push them and trigger a change in the traffic lights.

These have been installed because many modern bicycles are made of carbon fibre which will not trigger traffic light sensors.

There are varying types of sensors used around the world but the most common is called an inductor loop detector (IDL).

It consists of a wire loop placed in the asphalt leaving a telltale rectangular cutting in the road surface to detect the metal in the engine block.

The best place to pull up so the bike is detected is right on top of the middle cut line as in the photo below.

Cut marks in the road show where the inductor loop is located
Cut marks in the road show where the inductor loop is located

However, some are not sensitive enough to pick up small motorcycles. Also, many modern motorcycles have a lot of alloy which reduces their ability to trigger the lights.

Motorcycle Council of NSW chairman Steve Pearce says they have discussed the issue with Roads and Maritime Services.

“So far we have not received a reply except that they are looking into it,” he says.

“Our suggestion was actually a pressure pad at the front of the lane which would be triggered by a motorcycle.

“As the weight of a motorcycle is less than a vehicle, it would need to be a bespoke item.”

Report traffic light problems

RACQ safety and technical manager Steve Spalding says they have also raised the issue of motorcycles not triggering traffic lights with Transport and Main Roads “a couple of times”.

Steve Spalding safety officer RACQ motorcycle awareness month of May traffic light
Steve Spalding and his Bandit

TMR advises riders who find faulty traffic lights or those that don’t respond to call them on 131940, or via the on-line portal.

They can also contact the relevant TMR District Office directly as it may be possible to adjust the sensitivity of the detection loop sensitivity.

In other states, advise your relevant road authority who will be able to increase the sensitivity to detect smaller vehicles.

However, Steve says there is only so far they can adjust them otherwise they can pick up traffic passing in an adjacent lane.

Rider advice

Steve also advises riders to correctly position their motorcycle over the left or right cut lines in the road where the loop sensors are placed.

“Don’t stop in between them,” he says.

“You can also try moving forward to allow a car to position over them if they won’t trigger.

“From a safety perspective I’d suggest a rider not stop over the cut line closest to the adjacent through-lane but position themselves over one of the other lines (there are usually three running parallel to the lane).

“This gives them a bit more of a safe space if a passing car runs too close, or drifts into, the turning lane where they are sitting waiting for a turn light.”

Turn on redRed-light traffic light

Several American states allow riders to proceed through a red light that has not triggered so long as they have stopped first.

There are also places where all motorists are allowed to turn left (or right in countries where they drive on the right) on a red signal.

Brisbane City Council this year trialled “Left Turn on Red” at 48 intersections to “tackle traffic congestion and get residents home more quickly and safely”. 

However, the State Government amended its guidelines for “Left Turn On Red”, reducing the trial to just 18 intersections.

The trial ends this month and we await the verdict.

  1. Manufacturers are quite happy to add all manner of tech to their bikes, yet adding some sort of powered inductive loop underneath the bike or scooter to simulate a larger magnetic signature seems to be too hard.
    I have never had a bike that had problems triggering traffic lights so I never bothered rigging something up for myself.
    I suppose that if a manufacturer did have a loop option, it would be seen to be admitting there is a problem.

  2. The solution is simple, adjust the (loop) current detector. If that isn’t getting the desired effect then either there aren’t sufficient loops in the ground (coil) or the current sensor is not sufficiently sensitive. If the detector is triggered by motorists in the adjacent lane then the coil is physically too big. These are easily fixed problems and should be addressed when designing the system.

  3. There is also a problem with private car park entry/exit sensors no triggering with motorcycles, I have encountered it multiple times with a Westfield plaza, an Aldi Store & a corporate office block

    In the case of Westfield the Westfield assistance staff tried to fob it off as a contractor problem rather than report the problem through their management system

    Motorists get upset when you cant enter or come past them to leave the car parks

    1. You will notice that car-park boom gates are always made short enough to leave enough room for motorcycles to go around them while the boom is down. As they take up very little space, they have figured that it is far more efficient and convenient (ie: cheaper) to allow some bikes to enter without a ticket than to require staff to have to act, and other vehicles to be held up. Off-course they still want you to pay if you occupy a parking spot, but it’s near impossible to enforce it especially if you left your bike out of the way not in a spot.
      I worked for Secure Parking and Wilsons for 8 years, all parking companies make big turnover, and most of them are shifty as far as large companies go.

  4. It’s amazing how many motorists don’t understand how the loop works. So many times I’ve had to ask a driver to move forward to trigger the system after sitting there for a couple of cycles. Also, my old trail bike often doesn’t trigger so I ask the car behind me to move up a bit closer behind me. But if there is no-one behind my and I’ve been waiting a while, I just scan the horizon and go. What choice have you got?

  5. Surely Traffic Management Authorities have a testing procedure to detect a scooter or motorcycle at an inductive loop?
    Like how hard is it to a setting which has been tested and known to work that has a large margin of error in favour of triggering?
    My local light (now upgraded by road widening) was a right turn failure, yet all the motorists would NOT move forwards even though they had been sitting behind me for 3 cycles of light changes.
    I had to get off the bike and explain to them, and of course the lights must have a failsafe timer and the lights your go green while doing this. Yet another cycle to wait out.
    Some times you cant win!
    It’s a bummer when you know it’s not going to turn green even though you are right over the sensor line.

  6. This would be a welcome change. Currently my response to this problem is:

    1) Try and find the sensor and trigger it
    2) If no luck, move forward and get the car behind me to move forward
    3) If no luck, check for cops and cameras, then run the light

    An activation button would be ideal.

  7. You do yourself no favours having a whine about cyclists getting their own roads, cyclists, as for any road user have their own roads, they are called roads, paid for by taxes and general revenue and rates, and GST by everyone. Are we going to have a dummy spit because pedestrians get their own paths and pay no specific “taxes” for them? Code for rego does not pay for anything except the administration scheme it is and the insurance required because motor vehicle drivers are reckless and stupid, and even then it costs the government money , so in fact most non-drivers are subsidizing rego for everyone’s vehicles.

    How about linking up with cyclists and their groups, motorcyclists and cyclists are both VRU groups and both at the mercy of cage dwellers. The groups can learn to co-exist as they do in other countries. Comments like your second sentence make you no better than a Murdoch rag or most of the general media who fuel debate about the war on our rides. I really hoped you were above that.

    I walk (though mobility impaired), ride bikes, use wheeled recreational devices, ride motorbikes, drive cars, and also use therapeutic mobility devices. So I have skin in a lot of games when it comes to road and road related area use. I really do not appreciate people fueling discontent between them because you just never know when you will be in one of the aforementioned groups either by choice or no-choice, you should aspire to be better than that.

    Bring on the rain of naysayers, I have a thick skin, there is not much that can be said that I haven’t already heard before.

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