Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Look Both Ways Before You Cross the Street

More and more intersections here in Southern New England are turning into crossings with traffic lights. Three new crossings near Dover have changed over the past year.
To help cars pass at times of no cross traffic, the new systems installed have whats know as "Smart Lights"
A smart light is a traffic light engineered to change to a green light only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle. Most systems use a pad under the pavement that sense metal or a heavy object and trips the switch.
Cyclists that wait on the side of the road have to wait for a car to come or sit in the middle of the street. This can be a problem for drivers that feel that bicycles should not be on the street let alone in the middle.
For the most part, Smart Lights are an improvement for traffic control. Cars waiting to cross an intersection when there is no reason to stop burn more fuel. Waisted oil is something that effects us all. By allowing the car to cross safely there will be less back up and large groups of cars moving as a mass. I call that "Freight Train Traffic" Big groups driving together make it hard to see a lone cyclist ahead.
New systems are being introduced that use cameras to sense traffic at crossings but are expensive.
We can only hope with more commuters choosing to "Drive" there bicycles to work, town planers take bicycle commuting seriously and "Look Both Ways" when they choose there systems to safely cross Motorists and Cyclists alike.

1 comment:

  1. There's a lot of road work going on around where I ride. ("Our Recovery Dollars at Work"). All of the intersections include lights with the sensors that look like traffic cameras mounted on a pole atop them, pointed down at the stop line.
    So, if you're on a bike at one of those, you need to stop in the *middle* of the lane at the line, so the sensor will detect you.

    The old style "inductive loop" sensors are a little annoying, since bikes don't have enough metal to 'trip' them. I recall reading a blog post from a cyclist who epoxied a neodymium magnet (aka "rare earth magnet")into the sole of his bike shoe. All he had to do was put his foot down near where the loop was cut into the asphalt (You can always see where they cut the asphalt to lay the cables in) and it created enough magnetic flux to trip the sensor.

    The magnet was about the size of a nickel, if I recall. So, if you have one (and some epoxy) lying around, give it a go.



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