Tuesday, March 4

Just not heavy enough

The intersection of Broadway and Van Buren is not very friendly to cyclists, at least not in the early morning hours.

On my commute by bicycle yesterday, I waited through about three cycles of the traffic signal changes and never found my own green light. After a few minutes, the cold Hellgate winds got the best of me and I proceeded through the red light. There were no cars on the road at all, so the danger of being hit was almost nonexistent, yet I have little desire to be among those oft-mentioned reckless cyclists who are supposedly overrunning the streets of Missoula. This situation is a bit like those pedestrian walk signals that technically instruct the pedestrian to proceed to the nearest sidewalk when the red hand starts flashing, yet don't give enough time to get halfway across before the hand comes up. A stickler would never be able to cross.

Altough I could be wrong, I suspect that the light uses a dynamically-controlled sensory system. The green light is triggered by a wire on the road, which senses the large amount of conductive materials that would be in cars or trucks. The trouble is that bicycles don't count. Some cyclists have tried to trigger the systems by wearing special magnets in their shoes, although with mixed results. Local governments have also made efforts to alleviate the problem, from installing camera sensors in the lights to instructing cyclists to stand in specially marked spots. Although there may be a few more false positives, the sensitivity could just be increased or the wires could be laid in a different pattern more receptive to cyclists.

I don't want to make too much of this. My day was not ruined. Yet if Missoula wants to be a more bicycle-friendly community, these little inconsistencies should probably be addressed.

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