Getting Along: Get a Green Light – With Your Bike

Welcome to Getting Along! Posts in this category will help you “get along” on your bike in two ways:

  1. Getting where you need to go on a bicycle, even if – and especially if – a trail or bike lane doesn’t get you there; and
  2. Sharing the road as a safe, savvy, and courteous road user.

We’ll begin with a tip – a trick that I use every day on my residential-street commute.

If you ride on streets, you’ve undoubtedly been trapped by a red light that just won’t change. You wait. You wait more. You watch the countdown timer for traffic on the cross street count down to zero, and nothing happens. You look around for any cars in the vicinity that might come and trigger the light, but they’re never there when you need them. Some states’ laws will let a bicyclist cautiously go through a red light after waiting a certain period of time without the light changing, but Nebraska is not one of them. If you don’t want to break the law, what do you do?

  • You could waddle over to the sidewalk and push the button for the crosswalk. You won’t have any chance of pedestrian protection until LB 716 goes into effect on July 19 – unless you dismount and walk your bike through the crosswalk – but it will change the light.
  • You could make a right turn on red, after stopping, and use a series of turns to loop your way back to the road you were riding on. (This is as tedious as it sounds.)
  • Or! Much of the time, you can skip that walk of shame to the crosswalk and trigger the sensor for a traffic light yourself, using your bike. If you can see the outlines of the traffic light’s inductive loop in the pavement, you can hit it.

Go Redmond put together a great video tutorial on using inductive loops to trigger traffic lights with your bike:

In Lincoln, you have it even easier: The loops are rectangular, and I’ve found that in almost every case, it’s not even necessary to stop and wait on top of them. Just roll slowly across either the left or right side of the rectangle. If you can’t see where the loop is, you can guess – once you roll over a few, you’ll gain a sense of their usual positioning in the road.

Try this on your next ride! (And then be sure to log that ride for the National Bike Challenge.)