Not many people, if any, like red lights. They are a pain; when they are red you have to stop, and when they are green, you need to cross the intersection while keeping a close eye on the other traffic. There are always idiots who run red lights. The only time you might like a red light is when there’s a big glass window close by and you can admire yourself and your motorcycle (if you don’t think this happens, have a close look at what happens at red lights).
“Normal” red lights are okay I guess. They are timed, and after so many seconds they will either turn red or green. It’s the “demand-actuated” red lights that can be bothersome for bikers. These lights will turn green if there’s a vehicle stopped in front of them. And the way they know there’s a vehicle is because they have a metal wire in the ground, and through this inductive-loop traffic detector it can “feel” that there is a vehicle through its magnetic field. That’s because the wire acts like a metal detector.
This means that when a car is stopped above the wire, the wire senses a metal object and turns the light green. It’s handy since if there’s no traffic at the other side, why would you need to wait for the light to turn green. It’s a waste of time, money, gas and CO2.
However motorcycles are at a disadvantage. The metal mass of a bike is far less than that of a car, and often the light is not tripped. Standing on your own as a motorcycle, even a big one, is not enough. There are several types of sensors, from ones that behave very badly for motorcycles, to ones that recognize even the smallest bike or scooter. Click here to read more about the types of sensors and how to spot them.
For those sensors that just don’t change for a motorcycle, there are gadgets out there that say they can change the lights for you. Most are magnetic, but personally I have never seen one work properly.
So you end up moving aside, hoping that a car will drive up and trip the light.
The only saving grace in all this, is that many states in the USA and countries in the world, are allowing more and more for motorcycles to turn on red. You can’t cross the road on red, but at least you can turn on red. But to do that, you really need to pay attention. Vehicles can travel faster than what you may think. And remember, if you do turn on red, even if it’s legal, and someone crashes into you, you’ll be at fault.
So be careful when turning. Also be very careful when crossing a road on green. Many cars don’t pay attention, even for a red light. Have a look at the shocking video below (this is China, but this can happen anywhere in the world). The car runs a red light.
Warning – this is shocking.