Because the traffic light is on a sensor loop, and the sensor loop doesn't pick up my bike.
Yesterday I was sitting there waiting when a guy in a big SUV-style company car finally came up behind me. I edged the bike forward, to give him room to come up and set off the sensor, but he stayed - politely, respectfully, considerately - back. I turned and beckoned him up. He waved his hand, like, "no, it's okay, I'll stay back. "
I called out, "I can't set off the sensor," and made some incomprehensible gestures, trying to indicate by sign language what the problem was. He shook his head, then rolled his window down and leaned out. "I can't hear you," he said.
"If you move up, you can set off the sensor," I said. "It doesn't pick up the bike. This happens every time, it's a pain."
"Oh!" he said, and edged forward with the car. Within seconds the light had turned green and we could both go on our way.
But every day? I try to obey the traffic rules, but if I can't ever get a light to change, what am I supposed to do but use the pedestrian beg button and crosswalk? Or run the red light, from the left turn lane, when the coast is clear? (Which I will admit is what I usually do.)
Seventy percent of the intersections in the city have these loops, but they are hardly ever indicated, or marked. Sometimes there are three little yellow dots painted on the pavement, indicating the most sensitive part of the loop, the bit that's supposed to be set off even by a bicycle. But a lot of the time the dots are worn off or may never have been painted. (At Bank and Heron I have no idea where they might be, if they even exist, to set off the advance green. Late at night, I can sit through a couple of cycles before realizing I'm never going to get the light. And then, I'm stuck trying to get out of the middle of five or six lanes each way.) And at this particular intersection, Bank and Riverdale, the dots are still faintly visible, but they are in the wrong place.
|They're there.... do you see them?|
Presumably they wanted to only have one cyclist position for both lanes. It's simpler. So the position marked out puts the cyclist on the outside of the left-turn lane, and the centre of the right-turn lane.
|Yeah, they fit two lanes in that bit to the left of the median.|
Legally, cars are not allowed to turn right past a cyclist who is stopped in front of them, regardless of whether the cyclist is over at the curb or in the middle of the lane. So, from a design standpoint, going only from what the rules are, and not from how people (who are bloody ignorant apes) behave, there's no problem.
Except that what a driver sees is one of those damn cyclists hogging the road and blocking their way. Except that very few people even know that you're not allowed to pass a cyclist to turn right. Except that when I sit at that intersection on the dots, hoping the light will change, I feel a huge target painted on my back because I'm right where the drivers least expect or want me to be. Except that even as I sit there, I have no faith the sensors will pick me up.
And in fact, that was proven tonight. I decided to test a theory, around 9:00 pm. I pulled up to the intersection. I dutifully stationed myself right on top of the three faint dots. And I waited.
|How close I am to the right curb.|
|Yup, that's me. Just waiting smack in the middle of the wrong lane.|
And then a car was coming behind me, so I scootched over to the curb to let it by. Seconds after it came to a stop, the lights changed. Proving, to me anyway, that the stupid yellow dots are less than pointless.
|This is how far to the left of the yellow dots the left-turning car was. . .|
by this point, I'd ducked to the curb to let him by.
From now on, I will stop at that intersection and then "dead red" that MF, and if a cop wants to talk to me about it, I'll make him try to summon a green light by invoking the Triune God of the Yellow Dots with anything lower steel-content than a Yaris.