What exactly is an Inoperative Traffic Signal?

So this revolves around the law dealing with traffic signals that are “inoperative” 28-645C

C. The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection that has an official traffic control signal that is inoperative shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop before entering the intersection and may proceed with caution only when it is safe to do so. If two or more vehicles…

So: 1) make a complete stop, and 2) proceed only when safe. Simple enough. But what does ‘inoperative’ actually mean?

 Arizona Bicycling Street Smarts

Adot’s AzBSS Puts it this way:

WHEN TRAFFIC LIGHTS DON’T TURN

Always stop and wait for red lights. You not only ensure your safety, but you also increase respect for cyclists as law-abiding road users.

But some traffic lights don’t turn green until they receive a signal …

If your bicycle doesn’t trip the detector, you have to wait for a car to do it, or stop and wait until it is safe to go through the red light. Going through the red isn’t against the law, because the light is inoperative (Arizona Revised Statutes 28-645).

 

 

Below the line is a bunch of semi-unorganized research that may or may not shed light on the subject!


 

PennDOT was, I believe, the first State DOT to adapt Street Smarts, from Chapter 9:

If your bike does not trip the detector, you have to wait for a car to do it, or else you have to go through the red light. Going through the red is not against the law, because the light is defective. Refer to Sections of Title 75 (Vehicle Code in this pamphlet) pertaining to pedalcycles Section 3112”

Detectors are made that work for bicycles, at little or no additional cost. Federal design guidelines exist for these detectors. If you put enough pressure on your local and state government, bicyclists can avoid the crashes and the city can avoid the lawsuits which may follow.

Here is Section 3112. Traffic-control signals:

(c) Inoperable or malfunctioning signal.—If a traffic-control signal is out of operation or is not functioning properly, vehicular traffic facing a:
(1) Green or yellow signal may proceed with caution as indicated in subsection (a)(1) and (2).
(2) Red or completely unlighted signal shall stop in the same manner as at a stop sign, and the right to proceed shall be subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign as provided in section 3323 (relating to stop signs and yield signs).

Comment: Standard traffic signals sometimes do not detect bicycles. You may be unable to pass through a signalized intersection because the green signal is never received. When faced with this problem, you may treat the signal as malfunctioning and take the following steps to safely proceed through the intersection. First, determine that the signal will not detect you. Try to position the bicycle directly over the saw cuts in the pavement behind the white painted “stop bar” at the head of the lane. These cuts, which often take the shape of an elongated hexagon, contain the loop wires that detect vehicles. If no cuts are evident, you may have to guess their location. Wait for a complete cycle of the signal through all legs of the intersection.
If you still believe that the signal will not detect you, treat the red signal as a stop sign and proceed through the intersection only after yielding the right-of-way to all intersecting traffic (including pedestrians) that may be close enough to constitute a hazard during the time when you are moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways.

Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual (Street Smarts adaptation)

in answer to your question: Nope.

For what it’s worth: i believe AZBSS is exactly correct.

the question for your traffic engineer is: what does he think a automobile or motorcycle driver at a demand light that won’t change should do?
put it in park (or put down the kickstand) and go push the ped button? wait indefinitely?

Ha! I didn’t think so.

p.s. i think mionsky’s “3 minutes” is comically long. I was thinking about this the other day as one car after another –easily a dozen; not one of them stopped — was streaming through a right-on-red at 10 – 25mph at a freeway ramp… they weren’t even pretending to stop.

I will try to check the annotated statutes for that, could be something interesting.

I checked “traffic laws annotated, 1979” and the PedBikeLaws “Resource
Guide”, but couldn’t find that section is in UVC at all! I remember
that Mionske wrote that it was illegal in every state.

I checked ADOT crash data [0]. (Since that seems more promising than
anything else I have access to, and also the police have a reputation
for not enforcing rules against cyclists, except in the event of a
crash).

SOME, but not all, ACR have a field with
TCD_INOPERATIVE_MISSING_OR_OBSCURED, but it seems that’s an
intermediate thing that may have existed in 2010 but not in 2009 or
2011? For example, that is in field#18 “contributing circumstances”,
checkbox#10 (subfield “road”) in phoenix#2010-00400550.

There are several intriguing crash reports, but none are accessible on
the phoenix TAR site.

mysql> SELECT eViolation1, eViolation2, u.UnitNumber, FileNumber, IncidentDate, OfficerNcic, OnRoad, CrossingFeature FROM 2009_person p, 2009_unit u, 2009_incident i WHERE p.UnitID=u.UnitID AND i.IncidentID=u.IncidentID AND eRoadCondition1='TCD_INOPERATIVE_MISSING_OR_OBSCURED' AND eUnitType='PEDALCYCLIST' AND u.UnitNumber=1;
 +-------------------------------------+-------------------------------------+------------+------------+--------------+-------------+----------------------------------+----------------------------------+
 | eViolation1 | eViolation2 | UnitNumber | FileNumber | IncidentDate | OfficerNcic | OnRoad | CrossingFeature |
 +-------------------------------------+-------------------------------------+------------+------------+--------------+-------------+----------------------------------+----------------------------------+
 | FAILED_TO_YIELD_RIGHT_OF_WAY_103 | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 4074 | 2009-03-05 | 723 | 32nd St Front | Medlock Dr |
 | FAILED_TO_YIELD_RIGHT_OF_WAY_103 | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 8044 | 2009-05-06 | 723 | 16th St | Meadowbrook Ave |
 | OTHER_97 | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 8742 | 2009-05-14 | 723 | Bell Rd | 20th St |
 | SPEED_TOO_FAST_FOR_CONDITIONS | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 11052 | 2009-06-22 | 723 | Coral Gables Dr | Central Ave |
 | OTHER_97 | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 13789 | 2009-08-04 | 723 | Thomas Rd | 57th Ave |
 | FAILED_TO_YIELD_RIGHT_OF_WAY_103 | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 18918 | 2009-11-02 | 723 | 12th St | Bethany Home Rd |
 | INATTENTION_DISTRACTION | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 22705 | 2009-12-29 | 723 | 32nd St | Willetta St |
 | OTHER_97 | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 22727 | 2009-12-31 | 723 | 16th St | Glendale Ave |
 | OTHER_97 | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 1425 | 2009-01-23 | 723 | Roeser Rd | 16th St |
 | OTHER_97 | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 8747 | 2009-05-14 | 723 | Cactus Rd | 40th St |
 | DISREGARDED_TRAFFIC_SIGNAL | DROVE_RODE_IN_OPPOSING_TRAFFIC_LANE | 1 | 11105 | 2009-06-19 | 723 | Palm Ln | 75th Ave |
 | DROVE_RODE_IN_OPPOSING_TRAFFIC_LANE | NOT_APPLICABLE_0 | 1 | 14100 | 2009-08-14 | 723 | No Data | Windrose Dr |
 +-------------------------------------+-------------------------------------+------------+------------+--------------+-------------+----------------------------------+----------------------------------+
 12 rows in set (2.76 sec)

I also tried these:

eControlType=’FLASHING_TRAFFIC_CONTROL_SIGNAL’
u.eRoadCondition1 IN (‘TCD_INOPERATIVE_MISSING_OR_OBSCURED’,
‘NON_HIGHWAY_WORK’, ‘OTHER_97′)

In the process I came up with a bicyclist charged with a ped statute
(28-646A2): phx#10001611367, adot#2553949. Ed: that may partially
explain the Phoenix PD claim/interpretation that “bicyclist shall not
ride in crosswalk”.

“If you ever have a crash or get a traffic ticket because a traffic
light won’t turn green, it’s the fault of whoever installed the
detector”

I think that’s an unfortunately optimistic misrepresentation of
reality: the statute says “may proceed with caution only when it is
safe to do so”. Any PD and most judges will agree that a crash is
compelling evidence that it was not safe. So I think it’s almost for
sure that a bicyclist will lose in a traffic court trial (and that
assumes they’re not so seriously injured that they can’t challenge
it). Being found responsible for the traffic ticket may influence a
later lawsuit (but see ARS 28-1599). *If* the cyclist challenges the
PD report, hires a lawyer, sues the jurisdiction, and then appeals a
couple times, then there’s reasonable chance they can win..

If you’re unable to justify the current language, and feel compelled
to change it, you could consider recommending to make a right turn, a
U turn, and a 2nd right turn… (But I acknowledge that level of
disservice is only a small step from the marginalizing advice to
“dismount and cross as a pedestrian”).

Justin

[0]
mysql> SELECT FileNumber, IncidentDate, i.IncidentID, OfficerNcic,
OnRoad, CrossingFeature FROM 2011_incident i, 2011_unit u, 2011_person
p WHERE i.IncidentID=u.IncidentID AND p.UnitID=u.UnitID AND
p.ePersonType=’PEDALCYCLIST’ AND u.UnitNumber=1 AND
(p.eViolation1=’DISREGARDED_TRAFFIC_SIGNAL’ OR
p.eViolation2=’DISREGARDED_TRAFFIC_SIGNAL’) AND
u.eControlType=’FLASHING_TRAFFIC_CONTROL_SIGNAL’;

mysql> SELECT u.eRoadCondition1, FileNumber, IncidentDate,
i.IncidentID, OfficerNcic, OnRoad, CrossingFeature FROM 2009_incident
i, 2009_unit u, 2009_person p WHERE i.IncidentID=u.IncidentID AND
p.UnitID=u.UnitID AND p.ePersonType=’PEDALCYCLIST’ AND u.UnitNumber=1
AND (p.eViolation1=’DISREGARDED_TRAFFIC_SIGNAL’ OR
p.eViolation2=’DISREGARDED_TRAFFIC_SIGNAL’) AND u.eRoadCondition1 IN
(‘TCD_INOPERATIVE_MISSING_OR_OBSCURED’, ‘NON_HIGHWAY_WORK’,
‘OTHER_97′); — u.eControlType=’FLASHING_TRAFFIC_CONTROL_SIGNAL’; —
UnitAction ControlType EnvCondition Defect OfficerNcic xsection/junk
Lane nonMotorLoc

mysql> SELECT eViolation1, eViolation2, u.UnitNumber, FileNumber,
IncidentDate, OfficerNcic, OnRoad, CrossingFeature FROM 2011_person p,
2011_unit u, 2011_incident i WHERE p.UnitID=u.UnitID AND
i.IncidentID=u.IncidentID AND
eRoadCondition1=’TCD_INOPERATIVE_MISSING_OR_OBSCURED’ AND
eUnitType=’PEDALCYCLIST’;

On Fri, May 17, 2013 at 10:50:24PM +0000, Michael Sanders wrote:

> Are you aware of a cyclist being ticketed for running a red light because they couldn’t trip the detector? If so, was it challenged and what was the outcome?
>
> I’m having a conversation with a traffic engineer who believes we are providing bad advice when we state in ABSS that: “If your bicycle doesn’t trip the detector, you have to wait for a car to do it, or stop and wait until it is safe to go through the red light. Going through the red isn’t against the law, because the light is inoperative (Arizona Revised Statutes 28-645.C.< http://www.azleg.gov/ars/28/00645.htm > – “C. The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection that has an official traffic control signal that is inoperative shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop before entering the intersection and may proceed with caution only when it is safe to do so. If two or more vehicles approach an intersection from different streets or highways at approximately the same time and the official traffic control signal for the intersection is inoperative, the driver of each vehicle shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop before entering the intersection and the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the driver of the vehicle on the right”).
> No definition of what is “inoperative” but this traffic engineer believes it means “dark” . . .
>
> Other documents / sources:
>
> Arizona Driver License Manual and Customer Service Guide . . .
> Inoperative Signal Lights: When approaching an intersection with an inoperative traffic control signal, treat it as you would a 4-way stop. Come to a complete stop before entering the intersection and then proceed when the roadway is clear. If two vehicles arrive at the intersection at about the same time, both must stop and the driver of the vehicle on the left must yield the right-of-way to the driver on the right (

http://mvd.azdot.gov/mvd/formsandpub/viewPDF.asp?lngProductKey=1420&lngFormInfoKey=1420 , p. 34).
> John Allen’s version of SS uses the word “defective” – “If your bicycle doesn’t trip the detector, you have to wait for a car to do it, or else you have to go through the red light. Going through the red isn’t against the law, because the light is defective. If you ever have a crash or get a traffic ticket because a traffic light won’t turn green, it’s the fault of whoever installed the detector” http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/chapter9a.htm
>
> Also from John Allen web page: “. . . understand that the actuator problem, because it involves outright, inexcusable illegality, is a legal crowbar which can work to bring the traffic engineers to respect bicyclists . . .” Traffic Signal Actuators: Am I Paranoid? http://www.bikexprt.com/bicycle/actuator.htm
>
> And Bob Mionske says on the topic: “Once you have located the cut lines in the road and positioned your bicycle above the cut lines, what if the light has still not triggered? . . . It turns out that in every state, this is one instance where you can legally run a red light. . . . to be sure that the signal is defective (and to be able to demonstrate in court that you had sufficient reason to be sure), you should sit through the equivalent of one complete light-cycle — about three minutes — without the light being triggered. If you still don’t get the green light, the light is defective, and you can then proceed through the intersection, yielding the right-of-way to any approaching vehicles” (Bicycling & the Law: Your Rights as a Cyclist, p. 42).
>
> League of American Bicyclists: http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/ride_better_tips.php
> 3. Unresponsive signals
> * In most states, after three minutes, you can treat a red light as a stop sign
> * Pass through a red light only as a last resort
> * Yield to other vehicles while crossing the roadway

The “Words and Phrases” book has this case:

Fla. App. 3 Dist. 1992.  Traffic light at intersection that showed
steady green and yellow light was “malfunctioing,” not “inoperative,”
and, therefor, it was not contributory negligence for motorist to enter
intersection without stopping.  West’s F.S.A. 316.123(2), 316.1235,
316,1235(1).  City of Miami v. Burley, 596 So. 2d 1133.

That was, I believe, a case appealed from superior court to the state’s
appeals court, involving the city’s attempt to recover damages when a
citizen’s vehicle facing conflicting signal indicators crashed into a
city vehicle, decided against the city.

I will photocopy the case at a later date, but it specifically
distinguishes between “inoperative” meaning “not functioning at all” and
“malfunctioning”, meaning working imperfectly or only partially.

It seems that failure to detect a bicyclist/motorcyclist is an
“imperfection” and not an “inoperability”, as contemplated by that
statute, as interpreted by the FL court.

3 thoughts on “What exactly is an Inoperative Traffic Signal?”

  1. (cross-posted commment)
    case law regarding ARS 28-645(C) “inoperative traffic signals”, at least through CY 2012. That section was introduced by in 1998, 43rd leg as HB2248, included in Ch 26, Sec#1:
    http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/43leg/2r/laws/0026.htm
    http://www.azleg.gov/DocumentsForBill.asp?Bill_Number=HB2248&Session_ID=52

    There MAY be something regarding “inoperative” in the “words and phrases” book at the law lib. I will check next time I’m there, but
    this fact sheet indicates that power failure was the primary motivation for the amendment:
    http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/43leg/2r/summary/s.2248.tra.htm

    As I recall, backup battery power is required by the MUTCD nowadays, but that can fail too. No idea what a court might say regarding bicyclists.

  2. Long, informative post on history of signal detection and CA legislation from 2012 on the CABO discussion board:
    Some folks have been asking me lately about why more traffic actuated signals in California do not detect bicycles and why bicyclists often don’t have time to clear an intersection before conflicting traffic
    receives a green light. Therefore I decided to put in writing what I know about the history of bicycles and traffic actuated signals.
    As some of you may know, I became interested in traffic engineering as a career in the 1970’s as a result of being a bicycling advocate (I was president of the Santa Clara Valley Bicycle Association, now SVBC). In my professional career, I have made traffic actuated signals a specialty, having designed and timed many of them as well as doing research and teaching courses). As it turns out, in college I studied
    electricity and magnetism, which came in handy when I got into traffic engineering, since actuated traffic signals depend on accurate detection of vehicles. Vehicle detection is usually done with inductive loops, which are based on land mine detection technology originally developed in World War II. In the 1960’s, inductive loop technology matured to the point where vehicles could be accurately detected and traffic actuated signals became the norm, especially in suburbs and rural areas.

    The problem, though, is that commonly used square and rectangular inductive loops are designed to detect horizontal sheets of metal (similar to a land mine), and do not detect bicycles well, the wheels of
    which are vertical (the frame is too far from the pavement to be detected). So as traffic actuated signals proliferated, it became customary to simply ignore bicycles. But in the early 1980’s, some
    brilliant people in the traffic signal division of 3M discovered that in order to detect the metal bicycle rim of a bicycle, an inductive loop needs to have a diagonal element and be wound like a figure-8 (i.e., a “diagonal quadrupole”). The loop configuration 3M developed was subsequently adopted by Caltrans as their Type D. For the most part, though, traffic engineers continued to largely ignore bicycles, mostly because they still considered it too difficult or too expensive to detect them. Besides, in 1963, the CHP sponsored legislation that defined bicycles as devices rather than the vehicles they had been since the early 1900’s. At the same time, bicyclists were told that they had to ride as far right as practicable, without exception, meaning that they did not have the same lane use rights as drivers of vehicles. Since inductive loops were located in the centers of travel lanes, where bicycles did not ride, traffic engineers felt justified in ignoring bicycles in the design and operation of traffic actuated signals.

    As it happened, motorcyclists also were having a hard time being detected at traffic actuated signals, but for a different reason: traffic signal technicians were setting the sensitivity on the detector
    electronics only high enough to detect a car, which meant that motorcycles with their smaller horizontal cross section were not being detected. I had observed many traffic signal technicians setting the
    sensitivity as low as possible to avoid detecting vehicles in the adjacent lane. As it turns out, much of the magnetic field of a square or rectangular inductive loop spills outside the loop, causing such
    loops to detect cars in that adjacent lane. Again, the folks at 3M had discovered the solution many years earlier: the quadrupole loop (which Caltrans calls a Type Q or Type C loop). Neither Caltrans nor anyone
    else made these facts commonly known, though, meaning that most loops were still square and rectangular shaped with the sensitivity set too low, with the result that motorcyclists were not being detected.

    In 2007 a statewide motorcycle group called ABATE sponsored AB 1581, which originally only required that motorcycles be detected at all traffic actuated signals in California. As I understand, CBC had some
    limited involvement, but ABATE’s lobbyist, a man named James Lombardo, later told me that it was actually his idea to add bicycles to the bill, since he was interested in improving conditions for bicycling. He also knew that two previous attempts to require bicycle detection at all traffic actuated signals had been vetoed because they would have been an unfunded local mandate. Therefore he worked with the bill’s author to make the bill apply only to new and modified traffic actuated signals.
    The governor signed the bill and was added to the Vehicle Code on January 1, 2008:


    CVC 21450.5 (a) A traffic-actuated signal is an official traffic
    control signal, as specified in Section 445, that displays one or more
    of its indications in response to the presence of traffic detected by
    mechanical, visual, electrical, or other means.

    (b) Upon the first placement of a traffic-actuated signal or replacement
    of the loop detector of a traffic-actuated signal, the traffic-actuated
    signal shall, to the extent feasible and in conformance with
    professional traffic engineering practice, be installed and maintained
    so as to detect lawful bicycle or motorcycle traffic on the roadway.

    (c) Cities, counties, and cities and counties shall not be required to
    comply with the provisions contained in subdivision (b) until the
    Department of Transportation, in consultation with these entities, has
    established uniform standards, specifications, and guidelines for the
    detection of bicycles and motorcycles by traffic-actuated signals and
    related signal timing.

    (d) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2018, and
    as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that is
    enacted before January 1, 2018, deletes or extends that date.

    In mid-2007 I was getting back into bicycling advocacy after an absence
    of many years. I found out that AB 1581 was going to be signed by the
    governor. I had been studying traffic signals and detection for years,
    so it seemed natural for me to get involved. I submitted a public
    records request to Caltrans to find out how they planned to develop the
    new “uniform standards, specifications and guidelines”. When I received
    Caltrans’ response, I did not like what I saw.

    In January 2008 I traveled to Thousand Oaks to attend a meeting of the
    California Traffic Control Devices (CTCDC), which is where where
    Caltrans presented its plan. A motorcyclist from ABATE and I both told
    the CTCDC that Caltrans’ plan was inadequate. We must have been
    persuasive, since the CTCDC told Caltrans to form a subcommittee with
    representatives from public agencies, motorcyclists and bicyclists. I as
    well as traffic engineers from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Long Beach
    volunteered to serve on the subcommittee. At the first meeting I found
    out that ABATE had assigned James Lombardo as the motorcyclist
    representative.

    The AB 1581 Subcommittee met several times during 2008 and 2009, both in
    person in Sacramento and by teleconference. I sought help from both CBC
    and CABO for help with travel expenses and with coordinating bicyclists’
    input. CABO agreed, after which I joined CABO’s Board as its
    Transportation Engineering Liaison. This became my first big project for
    CABO since the mid 1970’s.

    At the AB 1581 Subcommittee’s first meeting I volunteered to do some
    experiments on detecting motorcycles and bicycles with inductive loops.
    I found that if a loop can detect a bicycle, then detecting a motorcycle
    is a piece of cake. The subcommittee subsequently focused on bicycle
    detection. We wanted the new standard to be “technology neutral”, but we
    also knew that inductive loops would be the most common detection method
    for a long time to come. Since Type D loops are 6’x6′ and usually
    located in the middle of the lane at the limit line, we decided to
    define a “limit line detection zone” as being the same size in the same
    location. Being a traffic engineer, I knew that we did not want to put
    loops closer to the edge of the road so as not to mistakenly detect
    right turning cars. And as a bicyclist, I knew that we did not want to
    encourage bicyclists to be too far right at intersections in order to
    prevent right hooks. I also found that the smaller a bicycle wheel is,
    the harder it is for a loop to detect it. It turned out that CABO’s
    President has 16″ wheels on his folders, which is the smallest wheel
    used on adult bicycles.

    I also explored other detection technologies, including video,
    microwaves and magnetometers. Video detection was becoming widely
    adopted despite having trouble in rain, snow and fog. Still, when it
    works for cars, it also works for bicycles (but at night only with a
    headlight). Microwaves can detect the water in a person’s body, so they
    can be used to detect bicyclists. But because magnetometers detect
    changes in the earth’s magnetic field from the passage of ferromagnetic
    material (usually iron or steel), and modern bicycles contain little
    ferromagnetic material close to the pavement, they can be excluded from
    consideration. When I asked the magnetometer detector manufacturer’s
    Chief Technology Officer about stainless steel spokes, he told me that
    some alloys of stainless steel are not ferromagnetic. He told me to try
    seeing if a magnet stuck to my spokes and, sure enough it didn’t.

    So the subcommittee set as the new standard that a “reference
    bicycle-rider” (a bicycle with a non-ferromagnetic frame, fork and
    wheels equipped with a headlight, a rider at least 4′ tall and 100
    pounds) would have to be detected anywhere within the “limit line
    detection zone” (6’x6′ centered in the lane at the limit line) of every
    travel lane where bicycle travel was permitted as well as all bike
    lanes. While still not perfect, this new standard was a lot better than
    not being detected at all. In order to work, though, it would require
    bicyclists to be trained to stop in the limit line detection zone rather
    than at the edge of the road.

    The subcommittee also addressed whether to mark locations where
    bicyclists should stop in order to be detected. We decided that since
    marking is expensive and eventually all traffic actuated signals would
    meet the new standard, marking locations that meet the new standard was
    unnecessary. As far as locations that did not meet the new standard,
    there was always the option of using a Bicycle Detector Symbol (a small
    bicycle symbol with short lines to indicate the “sweet spot” where
    bicyclists should stop to be detected).

    The last issue the subcommittee addressed was signal timing for
    bicycles. Fortunately Caltrans was sponsoring a research study with UC
    Berkeley to investigate crossing times for bicyclists. Using the results
    of that research, the AB 1581 Subcommittee proposed a formula for the
    minimum green time plus yellow plus red clearance that allowed most
    bicyclists starting out on a fresh green to clear the intersection
    before conflicting traffic is given a green, similar to the approach
    used for pedestrians. This formula was to be adopted as guidance for all
    traffic actuated signals when a bicycle is detected.

    The AB 1581 Subcommittee presented its recommendations to the CTCDC in
    May 2009 in Los Angeles. John Fisher, LADOT’s director, requested that
    the limit line detection zone be wider in wide right lanes to
    accommodate bicyclists who rode at the edge. And Jeff Knowles,
    Vacaville’s traffic engineer, requested that the signal timing guidance
    only apply to new and modified traffic actuated signals rather than all
    of them. The CTCDC accepted the AB 1581 Subcommittee’s recommendation
    with those two changes.

    Caltrans officially adopted the changes on September 10, 2009, and they
    are currently in the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control
    Devices (CA MUTCD). Unfortunately, implementation has been spotty. Here
    are the remaining problems:

    1. Neither CVC 21450.5 nor the CA MUTCD contains any enforcement mechanism.
    2. No one has followed up on educating bicyclists to stop in the limit
    line detection zone.
    3. Caltrans has not issued implementation guidelines (for instance on
    how to set the sensitivity for a loop detector)
    4. The magnetometer manufacture falsely claims that its units can detect
    bicycles.
    5. Caltrans has not issued plans for a smaller Type D loop for use in
    bike lanes.
    6. None of the elements of a bicycle plan (as defined in the Streets and
    Highways Code) addresses bicycle detection.
    7. Technology is not yet available to differentiate between bicycles and
    vehicles, resulting in inefficient signal operation when bicycle
    clearance time is provided and when no bicycle is present.
    8. Bicyclists do not know at which signals they will be detected.
    9. Bicyclists still run a lot of red lights, either because they do not
    believe traffic laws should apply to them or because they have not been
    detected.
    10. If bicyclists are going to run red lights anyway, they why bother
    with bicycle detection?

    The result is that many agencies are still reluctant to install bicycle
    detection or to provide bicycle signal timing at traffic actuated
    signals. Although much work remains to be done, we have made much
    progress, with the result being that we are better off than we were
    before the new standards and guidelines took effect.

    If you need more information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Bob Shanteau
    Transportation Engineering Liaison
    California Association of Bicycling Organizations

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