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Donít get complacent on traffic patterns

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Donít get complacent on traffic patterns

Old 07-19-21, 09:56 AM
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Donít get complacent on traffic patterns

I made a mistake this morning on my daily commute. I assumed that the traffic light pattern (which lights turn when) was consistent. Today, it wasnít.

The setup is that I head north on a 40 mph-posted four-lane road that has a reasonable shoulder with rumble strips. (The alternative is 45 mph-posted that adds 3 miles.) The normal traffic pattern at this time of day is that the eastbound traffic stops to allow an westbound left turn, followed by a protected left for the southbound traffic. Because of the heavy traffic at this time of day, I almost always follow the shoulder around and then cross over. That sets me up to follow the northbound platoon of traffic and usually gives me a little under a mile of no traffic.

Today when I got to A I could see the westbound traffic slowing down. I looked west and saw a platoon of eastbound vehicles but far back from the intersection. I rolled around on the shoulder and at B I looked back and saw the westbound red light and the eastbound platoon at the traffic light. Confirming my normal expectations, I pulled over in the left lane to prepare for my U-turn.

When I got to C I looked in my mirror to see the grill of a Dodge Ram approaching very rapidly and a vehicle in the right lane also. The eastbound traffic had NOT gotten a red light. I pulled left and the Dodge passed me while staying in his lane.

I donít know if the light pattern changed or if the left turn trigger logic has always allowed this, and it really doesnít matter. I can recall another case a few years ago when I acted based on what I thought a traffic light was going to do, not what it did. In both cases, the incident was on a route that I ride frequently.

Complacency hasnít gotten me yet, but Iíve got to put it at the front of my mind that the traffic pattern isnít always the same.
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Old 07-19-21, 10:10 AM
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The sensor controlled lights in my area do strange things. They are not consistent the entire day and do behave differently at different times of the day and even for which sensor in a specific lane gets tripped first. And then you never know when they last changed the programming either. Which on the first light I get to leaving my neighborhood is often!

So yah, expect the unexpected. Just be thankful you saw the unexpected in time and realized it.
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Old 07-19-21, 11:43 AM
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the logic is poorly thought out in most of the areas around by me. Most driver's quickly lose there cool & just go.
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Old 07-19-21, 12:47 PM
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I personally would not try to recognize traffic signal patterns and try to keep my situational awareness with regards to traffic.
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Old 07-19-21, 02:14 PM
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The timing of lights changes a lot in my area and I have no idea why, it doesn't seem to be a designed effort to compensate for different traffic flows; it doesn't bother me too much on a bike, but when I am driving it can be a PITA.

Luckily the sensors work at all the lights, so no problem with them sensing my presence when I'm on the bike. I'm assuming your sensors don't work too well, and is why you took the time to go around to get thru the intersection.
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Old 07-19-21, 02:14 PM
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Above that looks like an odd zip around the corner. But, as always pay attention to the the traffic around you and behind you (which saved you).

There are a few places where I'll go by the light patterns.

The standard way around the corner is to follow the red line, left hand turn. It has a couple of issues. I absolutely can not trigger the light. And, on a hill, it is hard to be part of traffic there. Once around the corner, there is about 100 yards without a shoulder, so being in the middle or in front of of a group of cars is problematic.

Cutting over to the "island" (red to green dotted line) is easy with good visibility. The white mini-van in photo NEVER makes a right turn (while not prohibited, it is an illogical turn). Oncoming traffic is posted no right turn. While I have seen it done, it is very rare. Freeway onramp, so there is no traffic ever coming from my right.

Done right, I miss the light, and the green path gets me away from traffic for most of that 100 yard shoulderless stretch ahead.

The trick is to predict when the white minivan will get a green.

Traffic pattern:
White minivan, then two turn lanes (red line and oncoming left turn), then straight through parallel to my course (black pickup and oncoming), then back to the white minivan.

So, as long as the route parallel to me (green lights ahead) remain green, then I can get across in front of the white mini-van. And, if the traffic pattern is "stale", then I can simply wait. STOP ON YELLOW.

It isn't bad if the red turn lane gets a green, but I like those cars to clear out (plus, it is generally predictable if and when that turn gets the green).
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