Safety and Education Committee Report

Timing of our Traffic Lights

We've all entered intersections on a green light that has turned red before we can get through it. When a green light turns to yellow; a vehicle going the posted speed should be able to [normally] stop or clear the intersection before the light turns red. Operators of vehicles traveling at a different speed must make a judgment call to avoid intruding on the rights of others. Those going faster will cause a rear-end collision if they stop too fast and those slower [bicycles] can be in the way of those whose light has now turned green.

When we make others needlessly wait we're stealing their time and forcing the cross traffic to wait when their light is green is a sure way to incur their wrath. Increasing a yellow light's time to accommodate bicycles will do more harm than good. With so few cyclists on our roads most of this increased yellow light time will be spent “Stopping for Ghosts” and longer light cycles will increase congestion. More people will try [but often fail] to beat red lights and those that wait will resent being inconvenienced by “special people” [occasionally] playing in traffic with their toys.

In order to safely accommodate all users we must let them know how long before the light turns red. Many of our intersections are now equipped with countdown lights for pedestrians and installing them at every intersection will accomplish what we need done. This solution will require a lot of time and money and we can accomplish our goal better simply by changing the programming of our lights. Initiating a flashing yellow light before it becomes steady will tell all when to expect the light to turn red. It should start to flash when a [12 MPH] bicycle can get through the intersection; become steady when a [legal speed] motor vehicle can and not turn red before the intersection has time to clear. A lot of people speed and standardizing the interval times will allow these “scofflaws” to better plan their actions.

We've all stopped at a red light and had somebody behind us blow right through it. Some of these motorists only “Stop when they see a cop” but most have simply misjudged when it was changing to red. Giving cyclists an advanced warning of the light's impending change will make the roads safer for us and curtail a lot of “road rage” inducing situations.

Changing the light's programming is a simple task that's been proven to work. The pile of broken tailights at many traffic lights proves that far more motorists than bicyclists crash each year. Every crash impedes traffic flow and reducing their number will save far more time each year than adding a few more bicycles to our traffic mix. Even if you won't ride a bicycle on the road; asking for this change will improve safety for us all.

Bill Fisk
Safety and Education


Make sure to wear at least one item of reflective outerwear apparel, such as a reflective vest, jacket, or helmet strip, during the period from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise.

Safety and Education Coordinator

Biking 101