19 January 2011
A Cyclist's Grumple: #1 Demand-actuated Traffic Signals
Demand-actuated traffic signals are the ones that only turn green when an automobile is detected at the intersection. Most detect the automobile with magnets. The trouble is that bicycles and other smaller vehicles don't usually have enough metallic mass to trigger the sensor so, often, a cyclist can find himself waiting indefinitely for a car to come along to trip the light or breaking the law--and risking his life--by disregarding the signal all together. This points to the bias inherent in our car culture and to the unintended consequences of well-meaning city planning. By favoring automobiles, we reinforce and recreate so many of the contemporary problems that we give lip-service to trying to ameliorate. Obesity, urban congestion, and climate change are just a few of the things exacerbated by the little things like demand-actuated lights.