Let riders go through red lights

red light

We got stuck at a red light in Napier yesterday because I changed lanes at the last minute and didn’t line the bike up in the middle of the lane.

Therefore the inductive loop under the ground didn’t pick up that a vehicle was waiting, so the lights didn’t change.red lights

Finally a car arrived behind us, I inched forward and beckoned them to roll right up behind me and then the lights changed.

How many times has this happened to you? The law should be changed to allow riders to proceed through red lights when they won’t change, so long as they have stopped and waited a given a mount of time. This would also mean some sort of algorithm change in red light cameras so they didn’t activate and send you a fine in the post!

There are several states in the US that allow this and there is a bill before New Hampshire’s legislature that would let those otherwise stuck bikers ride through red lights.

red lightsOf course, the laws should also be changed to allow any motorist to proceed through a red light after coming to a full stop if they are turning left (or right in countries where they ride/drive on the right).

The reason some bikes are not detected by the traffic light sensor at “vehicle actuated” intersections is usually because the bike is too light, has too much alloy or is not in the correct position on the road.

There are varying types of sensors used around the world but the most common is called an inductor loop. It consists of a wire loop placed in the asphalt leaving a telltale rectangular cutting in the centre of the lane road surface to detect the metal in the engine block.

red lights
Tell-tale cut marks in the road

However they often don’t detect small bikes. Also, most riders tend to pull-up in the wheel tracks to avoid the slippery oil spills in the centre of the lane.red lights

When the lights won’t activate, it means riders have to sit for long periods in the sun or rain and hold up traffic behind them. Some riders have been known to become so frustrated, they get off their bike and press the pedestrian button to actuate the lights.

Some US states have not only identified that this is a matter of inconvenience, but also a matter of safety as these vehicles are in a vulnerable position and riders can also suffer heat exhaustion sitting still for a long time on very hot days.

It is something that should be considered for Australia, New Zealand and other countries with extremes of weather.


  1. I have long known that it is a defence to state that the signals have ceased to perform their intended function as a traffic control device and therefore one can proceed as if it is an uncontrolled intersection. So proceeding with caution after waiting a sufficient time that one can reasonably conclude the signals are not functioning as a control device. I don’t know what might work as the specifics but about 2 mins is my gut feel and many times I have taken this approach without problem. Never been questioned about it but expect providing this reasonable explanation would sort it. Re red light cameras just don’t exceed 25km/hr and they won’t trigger.

  2. My brother used to carry a ceramic magnet (powerful) tied to a length of string. Toss it on the ground a

    And pull it back in. A nuisance but 100% effective. Just keep it away from phones and credit cards. 🙂

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