Question: What are you supposed to do if a traffic light fails to recognize your presence? How many times should you watch the full cycle of traffic signals before you take an action? If you are on a bike, is there anything you can do with headlights and flash them at a sensor to improve chances? Anything to look for to jump on? Or is it just best to get off and walk on the crosswalk as soon as it is appropriate, or is it best to wait for a car to come up behind you to trigger the signal for you? Or is it best to take the left when you know it is free and clear but your light is red?
Answer: This question seems to be coming up a lot lately. Bellingham has traffic signals that are either triggered by a vehicle sensor loop or on a timed system. Generally, all of the sensor triggered lights work quite well and should recognize everything from a bicycle to a semi.
For bicycles and motorcycles, it can be more difficult to activate the sensor. If you ride too far to the right or left in your lane (more often left) you may miss the sensor. If you have gone past the sensor but were not able to make the turn due to traffic, it will not recognize you until either you back up onto the sensor or a vehicle comes up behind you. This applies to all vehicles.
Flashing your headlights to try to activate a sensor won't work. I can't/won't tell you how many times to sit through the light cycle or when it is OK to disobey the signal. Each of us has to make our own decision as to what is best to do in a situation like this.
The only thing that I can tell you is to make sure to report the malfunctioning signal/sensor to either the local law enforcement agency or public works so they know to go out and monitor and/or fix it.
Q: How do you get a driver to notice that their blinker has been blinking miles after their turn? I get behind some drivers, and I'm not sure which street they will turn on next. Or the driver that just brakes and turns without signaling?
A: That is an excellent question that I can't give you a good answer for. If you are following a vehicle that has a blinker on, you just need to make sure to keep your safe following distance and be aware that they may turn in front of you. For the driver that fails to signal prior to the turn, one can only try to keep the safe following distance and concentration on the road and hope that there is an officer there to see and enforce the turn signal law ($124 for failing to use it) when it happens.
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David Wright is a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.