Tuesday, July 28, 2015

If I could make a request of the universe - just a little one . . .

There are a few little things on my wish list. My personal, if-a-genie-popped-out-of-a-bottle wishes. (That is, if the genie was offering me only urban-design-related wishes, because otherwise, sorry, I would wish for the Nile or my own personal pet unicorn or something: I like nicely built streets and all, but come on.)

Anyway, today I realized that one thing, one tiny little thing, that would make me happier as a cyclist, would be a standardized sign letting me know that an intersection has got one of those magnetic loops controlling the lights.

Some intersections have got the three yellow dots for bikes, yes. But you have to know they're there, and know what to do with them. The new bike intersection at Clegg and Riverside, for example, has a wordy sign explaining how to use the dots.

But there are loop-controlled signals for cars, too - 70% of the city's traffic signals have detector loops - and not only is it hard to position over them, because you usually can't see where they are and bikes are usually over to the right anyway, but I have absolutely no faith that my bicycle, with its paltry metal content, will trigger them.

There has been more than one occasion, biking home late, when I've wound up waiting in the left turn lane from Bank to Heron through multiple cycles, because after a certain time at night the advance green reverts to a loop-triggered signal (or maybe it's triggered by a detector all the time, and it's only in the middle of the night that I notice because there are no other cars to set it off). I could sit there all night: it doesn't think I'm a car, and so I don't get a chance to get out of the intersection unless I duck out - against the light - through a gap in the flow of traffic, or use the pedestrian signal when it comes up.

I'm getting good at inching my bike forward until there's enough space behind me that a car could get up to the stop line. Using the metal content of the car behind me to trigger the loop. If there is a car behind me. On quiet nights, you can wait a long time for a car to come along that triggers the signal in the direction you actually want to go.

I don't necessarily need the detectors to be senstive enough to pick up my bike (though that would be great). All I really need is for the intersections that are controlled by a detector to be indicated, so if it's 12:30 am and there are no other cars in sight, I know not to try and wait, invisibly, in traffic position, for a green light that isn't coming.

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