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Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
Walking and bicycling for transportation, fitness, and fun
How to make the light turn green
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About this blog
By Rachel Ruhlen

My bicycle is our second car. I love to bicycle in all weather, for all distances, and on all routes. Bicycling has brought so much joy to my life, and I want to share it with anyone who is interested. I will use my soapbox to tell you about the ...

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Bicycling and Walking Around

My bicycle is our second car. I love to bicycle in all weather, for all distances, and on all routes. Bicycling has brought so much joy to my life, and I want to share it with anyone who is interested. I will use my soapbox to tell you about the joys, the freedom, the benefits, and, yes, the challenges of bicycling and walking for transportation.

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To trigger the actuator that will make the light turn green, place your wheel where the cuts in the pavement come together. Then wait.
To trigger the actuator that will make the light turn green, place your wheel where the cuts in the pavement come together. Then wait.
By Rachel Ruhlen
June 24, 2013 5:45 p.m.



I advocate a full stop at every stop sign and red light. But some red lights seem to stubbornly stay red for bicyclists. Traffic lights might be on a timer, cycling through red and yellow and green independent of the traffic that is present. But many traffic lights are triggered by vehicles at the intersection. Somehow they see the cars and know which direction the car is going.

They have sensors called actuators. These sensors may be under the pavement and are essentially metal detectors. Actuators don't always detect small vehicles like bicycles and motorcycles. So you can roll up to a red light, and wait for it to change, and wait, and wait.

Some bicyclists cope with this by not bothering to stop for the red light. I recommend a full stop for every red light and stop sign. In some states, like Idaho, bicyclists may legally treat a stop sign as a yield sign, and a red light as a stop sign. Missouri does not have a provision like that. However, Missouri does have a Dead Red law. If you are on a motorcycle or a bicycle and have been waiting an "unreasonable" amount of time for the light to change, it is legal to proceed as if you were at a stop sign. Wait for traffic to clear, then go through the intersection.

Other bicyclists will push the pedestrian button (if there is one). I don't recommend this, unless you get off your bicycle and become a pedestrian while you cross the intersection. If you are able to reach the button, you are either on the sidewalk or at the far right edge of the road. But if you are proceeding straight through the intersection, the rule of Positioning by Destination dictates that you ought to be in the middle third of the right-most straight-through lane. From that position, you can't reach the button. If you can reach the button, you are setting yourself up for a right-hook collision from a right-turning car.

There is a trick to triggering the actuator. When the actuator is placed, cuts are made in the pavement. You will see a pair of rectangles or diamonds. Place your wheel on top of the intersection of the lines, at the corners. That's where the actuators are located, and your front wheel has enough metal to trigger the actuator if you get it close enough.

It takes a little patience and perseverance, but you'll feel proud the first time you pull that one off successfully. While you're waiting to see if you were successful or if you'll have to invoke the Dead Red law to get through this one, count 60 seconds (1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, 3-Mississippi...) Rarely will you make it to 60 before the light changes. One minute. That's all. Waiting in traffic, it seems like a lot longer, but it's rare around here that anything slows you down for even one minute.

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