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  1. #1
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    How long do you wait before running a nonresponsive traffic light? Is it legal?

    We've all been sitting there (indefinitely) waiting for a light to turn. Sometimes, it never will until a car comes along to trigger the sensor. And sometimes, when you're out in the boonies, this could be a LONG time.

    What is your time limit? Given the above situation, is it legal to run the light after an excessive amount of time?

  2. #2
    On the road to health. Griffin2020's Avatar
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    As soon as there is enough gap in the traffic for me to safely ride across, I do so.

    There is a light on my commute that will cycle, but only the turn lanes. I have waited through 3 complete cycles before, and it never gives me a green.
    If I ever get stopped, I have called the city on it more than once.

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    SOME states have that law that will allow you to run it. You realy need to check your local motor vehicle department's website for sure. What state are you in? Maybe someone familiar can tell you.
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    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    If it is clear I Run The Red....
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  5. #5
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lineinthewater View Post
    We've all been sitting there (indefinitely) waiting for a light to turn. Sometimes, it never will until a car comes along to trigger the sensor. And sometimes, when you're out in the boonies, this could be a LONG time.

    What is your time limit? Given the above situation, is it legal to run the light after an excessive amount of time?
    Depends on if I know the light or not. If I don't know the light... I wait one light cycle... I wait for the lights to go through a complete set of red and green for all phases.

    If I know the light is not going to change (lights I have encountered often along my route) I wait until it is good and clear and then go.

    In most states, a cyclist may proceed through a red light that does not change under the premise that the light is malfunctioning.

    Oh, if the lights never change phase... like those lights out on lonely country roads... I go when it is safe. Those won't even cycle through phases. Late at night often these turn into flashing lights... and the locals drive through them when it is safe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Depends on if I know the light or not. If I don't know the light... I wait one light cycle... I wait for the lights to go through a complete set of red and green for all phases.
    If the light cycles, you would get a green. No? Well, unless possibly you are in the one lane that is empty. Chicken egg thingy.
    Last edited by lineinthewater; 10-09-09 at 08:46 AM.

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    One trick I learned in the midwest is that if you ride a metal bike, often getting off and gently laying your bike on the detector loop is enough to actually trigger the detector. But yes, *if* after waiting a complete cycle and the light does not change, one can usually proceed with caution based on the argument that the light is malfunctioning.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Griffin2020 View Post
    There is a light on my commute that will cycle, but only the turn lanes. I have waited through 3 complete cycles before, and it never gives me a green.
    If I ever get stopped, I have called the city on it more than once.
    I have a similar problem - an extremely busy road/highway (and there is no PED). It makes it almost impossible to get across because almost no one enters the intersection from my particular direction. Drives me crazy. I've been through 5 LONG cycles (green to opposing traffic taking a left) waiting for a window to cross. Normally, at other lights, after a few cycles like this, I would go just as the last opposing car took a left ... but there is always people running the yellow/red, and the people jump the light on the main road. That combined with a WIDE intersection makes it impossible to slip through safely.
    Last edited by lineinthewater; 10-09-09 at 08:56 AM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ngchen View Post
    One trick I learned in the midwest is that if you ride a metal bike, often getting off and gently laying your bike on the detector loop is enough to actually trigger the detector. But yes, *if* after waiting a complete cycle and the light does not change, one can usually proceed with caution based on the argument that the light is malfunctioning.
    That is a great tip ... I've tried doing figure 8's on traffic loops - but never laying the bike down. I will definitely try it next time I'm out.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by lineinthewater View Post
    We've all been sitting there (indefinitely) waiting for a light to turn. Sometimes, it never will until a car comes along to trigger the sensor. And sometimes, when you're out in the boonies, this could be a LONG time.

    What is your time limit? Given the above situation, is it legal to run the light after an excessive amount of time?
    In most jurisdictions a traffic light is suppsoed to be responsive to ALL roadway users. This includes motor vehicles and bicycle traffic. If it does not respond or change then it is considered to be malfunctioning and needs adjustment or repair. some traffic lights with the the weight and/or magnetic sensors also has a timer to cycle it through. In Iowa if a traffic light will not change after 5 min. a person can proceed through and treat the light as a yield if it is safe and clear.

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    Lurker extraordinaire Golf XRay Tango's Avatar
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    In suburban Toronto, some of the lights that have crosswalks with push to cross buttons go through a cycle where they show the 'Don't Walk' signal for 10 seconds and then revert to 'Walk' without giving the cross street a green. I use that as my cue to decide that the light isn't going to change for me, and proceed when the way is clear.

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    Frame Catastrophizer mikewille's Avatar
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    Look both ways to see if it's clear, look behind you to check for a watching
    police officer, then go. Absence of police doesn't mean you won't get a ticket, and
    presence of an officer doesn't always mean you will.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Brian T.'s Avatar
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    We have 3 minutes for our lights if they don't change.
    Never get into an argument with an idiot, they only drag you down and beat you with experience.


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    Mashin' in traffic bicyclejade's Avatar
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    If it's clear, I'm mashin' Reds.

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    Senior Member RedRider2009's Avatar
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    Wisconsin has the 45 second law, which is only intended for bicycles and motorcycles, because we do not weigh enough to set off the sensors. If there are other people around, generally I do wait the 45 seconds, but if nobody is in sight, I just look both ways and go...

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    Oklahoma passed a law about stoplight for both bicyclist and motorcylist. IT requires the bicyclist(and motorcyclist) to deal with it as a stop sign..Stop...Look...Then proceed safely.

  17. #17
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lineinthewater View Post
    If the light cycles, you would get a green. No? Well, unless possibly you are in the one lane that is empty. Chicken egg thingy.
    No, the sensors trigger for what ever lanes have auto traffic in them, and those sensors may not make the light turn green for me. Happens this way often in dedicated left turn lanes.

    If the lights were just on a timer, that would be a different situation.

    Someone mentioned the best situation... just treat it as a stop sign and go when it is safe.

  18. #18
    just a commuter
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    In California, CVC 21800(d)(1) says
    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.
    There's no mention of how to decide it's inoperative, nor how long to wait while we make that determination. At an unfamiliar light I'll wait through a cycle. At the light into my neighborhood, I stop then go as soon as traffic is clear enough.

    Here is some good information on the engineering issues of detection.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Golf XRay Tango View Post
    In suburban Toronto, some of the lights that have crosswalks with push to cross buttons go through a cycle where they show the 'Don't Walk' signal for 10 seconds and then revert to 'Walk' without giving the cross street a green. I use that as my cue to decide that the light isn't going to change for me, and proceed when the way is clear.
    I usually push the button, then when I get the walk signal, walk through the cross walk. If there is no traffic at all, I have taken a legal right turn on red, gone down about 100m, then pulled a wide U turn, then made another right turn to continue my trip. I think the real issue though, every time you see a light that does it, report it to the city, don't be surprised if they don't do anything about it though......

  20. #20
    genec genec's Avatar
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    The problem with walk buttons is they don't trigger left turns.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    The problem with walk buttons is they don't trigger left turns.
    True, but at least you can get to the other side of the road, and expect a green on that corner in short order. Not ideal, but it works if you simply can't get across a busy intersection (at any time).

  22. #22
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    The problem with walk buttons is they don't trigger left turns.
    So you "box" the corner, easy to do on a 12-15kg bicycle, much harder to do in a 2,500kg Stupidfying Ugly Vehicle. Essentially when the light turns, you go straight through, pick up your bike turn it 90 degrees and when the light turns back, you go straight through again.

  23. #23
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wogsterca View Post
    So you "box" the corner, easy to do on a 12-15kg bicycle, much harder to do in a 2,500kg Stupidfying Ugly Vehicle. Essentially when the light turns, you go straight through, pick up your bike turn it 90 degrees and when the light turns back, you go straight through again.
    Nice idea, but what if I have already moved to the left turn lane in expectation of being able to trigger the light.

    "Boxing the turn" is fine if I am aware of the signal problem, but it is a bad solution if I have already set up for the left turn... somehow, I now have to work my way back to the corner... may as well just treat the light as a stop sign and simply go when it is safe.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Nice idea, but what if I have already moved to the left turn lane in expectation of being able to trigger the light.
    To be "legal", get off the bike, get in the crosswalk, and walk it past (in front of) the cars waiting to going straight. Obviously only do this if the light won't change for a while.

    Or, if you are going to do the "box" thing anyway, and turning traffic is not heavy, might as well walk the bike the opposite direction on the crosswalk (to your left), and when the PED turns you can walk your bike across the other crosswalk. Saves some time.
    Last edited by lineinthewater; 10-12-09 at 09:41 AM.

  25. #25
    Infamous Member chipcom's Avatar
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    It depends on the light. If it is a light that I know is not only run by a sensor, but also will not trigger for a bike, I'll proceed as soon as it is safe to do so, unless a car is coming that will trigger it, in which case I'll wait for him/her.

    If it is a light that I don't know...well it might take me a few cycles to figure out that it's defective.

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