We’ve all had moments where it feels like the traffic light will never change to green. Many intersections have sensors underneath the concrete that alert the traffic light when to let cars through. But what happens when your preferred mode of transportation isn’t heavy enough to trip the sensor? That’s the problem for bicycle and motorcycle riders who are too often stranded at intersections, unable to change the light. That could finally change, thanks to a pilot program in San Jose that could lead to more advanced traffic light technology that will sense the presence of a motorcycle, or even a bicycle.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that the city received a $1.5 million Metropolitan Transportation Commission grant to determine the best detectors of bikes and motorcycles by testing them at San Jose intersections. This follows a four year old bill which required that all new or modified traffic signals detect the presence of bikes and motorcycles. If the San Jose traffic light pilot program is successful, the technology will likely be applied to cities and towns throughout the Bay Area and California.
The problem with long waits at traffic lights could extend beyond annoyed drivers on two wheels. In fact, reports the Mercury News, many riders follow the temptation to run straight through the red light when they have been waiting too long, which could take drivers going the other way through the intersection by surprise and even lead to an accident. Cyclists have also said that they will commonly move into the intersection so that cars behind them can move up and trigger the sensor. This leads to overcrowding at intersections, and could leave cyclists even more vulnerable to reckless drivers.
It’s clear that everyone would benefit from traffic lights that were capable of detecting bicycles and motorcycles. I have faith that the San Jose pilot program will be successful, and if it is, I look forward to seeing better sensors at intersections throughout California.
Photo credit: dno1967b