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Stuck at the Red Light…forever!

If you have not yet been stuck sitting in a left turn lane red light, don't worry, you will.

Everyone gets stuck some time or the other. When it happens to you, here's what you can do about it.

But first, what's happening anyway? why doesn't the light change? Well, as we all know (and if you don't, go sit in the corner for ten minutes - time out) there are wires under the road which detect the presence of cars and trucks waiting at the stoplight. These wires feed data to the traffic light controller which turns the light red, yellow, and green-based upon the presets and the presence or absence of vehicles.

This happens when the 4,000-pound mass of metal (the car) changes the electromagnetic field on the road over these hidden wires. Motorcycles, weighing in around five hundred pounds, may not have enough electromagnetic mass to trigger the system.

Some (most) of the older traffic lights have a tough time saying that a motorcycle is sitting there, waiting for the light to change. Some traffic lights are set to automatically turn green every so many cycles and some will never turn green until an actual car triggers the system.

So, here's what you can do!

Avoid being stuck in the first place.

I know that a left turn light near my home that never, ever works for motorcycles. And for some reason known only to the powers above, I still find myself occasionally stuck at this light, waiting for a car to come along behind me and trigger the light.

  1. Don't be like me, avoid known problem traffic lights. (DUH!)
  2. As you roll up to a stop, you can see the under-road wires formed into a rectangular shape just about where a car would stop behind the crosswalk. For the best chance of triggering the light, stop on top of the left (or right) side of the under-road wires, never in the empty middle.

Once you are stuck, you can.

  1. Roll your bike forwards and backwards over the under-road wires and try to trigger the light.
  2. Rev your engine in the hopes that you might scare the traffic light into submission. This rarely works but it makes you feel good (pot-ta-toe, pot-ta-toe)
  3. Turn your engine off and re-start it and maybe make some electro-magnetic change that will trigger the light.
  4. Get off your bike and run over to the edge of the intersection and press the crosswalk button and haul back and get on your bike before you miss the green light. Whew!
  5. Run the light.

Magnet on the Bottom of the Bike

Buy a "Motorcycle Traffic Light Changer" device for $10 to $20 plus shipping. Chances are you will receive a $1 magnet in a plastic case which you stick to the bottom of your bike and hope that it will trigger the light. Go ahead, what do you have to lose? $10 to $20 is what (smile). I went and bought a powerful magnet at the local discount tool place and stuck it on the bottom of my bike.

I then performed a scientific survey where I went to that traffic light near my home that never triggers for motorcycles and tested it out.

Zip, nada, nothing, and I was again stuck at this light. (Note: There happens to be a barbershop on the corner, and I have always wondered if the barbers are sitting inside cracking up at me every time, I get stuck at this light.)

I must be fair though and tell you that I have a friend who has a magnet stuck to the bottom of his HD Heritage and he swears it works, every time.

I don't have any friends who bought the mail order special for $20. At least that has admitted it.

Run the Light

Well, you are on your own here. This is a pretty dicey area, but you know what, when you are stuck, sometimes there is no other choice but to run the light.

If you got to do it, do it the safest way possible. For example, if you are stuck in a left turn lane, wait for an opening in the right-side traffic and move into the right-hand lane and go straight ahead down the road instead of turning left at the light.

I tell myself that after having waited through two complete cycles of the light it would be a hard-nosed cop who would write me up for taking my only option, running the light. A hard-nosed cop at the end of his shift who has just spent the day being called a fascist and a pig by the last three motorcycle riders he pulled over. Naw, he wouldn't write a ticket to an upstanding citizen like myself.

Wouldn't he?