One situation that all motorcycle riders can relate to – regardless of the type of bike you ride, is getting caught at a Traffic Signal that doesn’t change. We’ve all probably wondered Can A Motorcycle Run a Red Light in PA? Thanks to Pennsylvania’s Ride on Red Law, we aren’t at the mercy of traffic signal that doesn’t recognize us.
Pennsylvania’s Ride On Red law went into effect on September 18, 2016. This law allows Motorcycles and Bicycles to proceed on red if the traffic signal’s vehicle detection system fails to recognize them. In this instance, the red light should be treated as a stop sign, and the rider should proceed cautiously.
Before running red lights in PA, it is important to understand how Traffic Signals work and when it is lawful to run them on a motorcycle.
Vehicle Detection System
Many traffic signals in Pennsylvania are automated and use a vehicle detection system to know when to cycle between red and green lights. The most common type is the Inductive Loop Detector. This system utilizes a loop of wires in the roadway that detects metal in the vehicle above.
Once triggered, the Inductive Loop Detector will alert the Traffic Signal Controller to change. This system can fail in some instances – such as when a lightweight automobile or motorcycle approaches, as there may not be enough metal to trigger the sensor.
Other Vehicle Detection Systems include Video, Sonic, and Microwave.
§ 3112 Traffic-Control Signals
Title 75 – § 3112 is the law that indicates how Traffic Control devices (Traffic Signals) should be treated. The critical section that affects Motorcycle Riders is (c). This measure allows rides to proceed with caution if the sensors on the traffic signal fail to recognize them.
(c) Inoperable or malfunctioning signal.–If a traffic-control signal is out of operation or is not functioning properly, including, but not limited to, a signal that uses inductive loop sensors or other automated technology to detect the presence of vehicles that fails to detect a vehicle, vehicular traffic facing a:
(1) Green or yellow signal may proceed with caution as indicated in subsection (a)(1) and (2).
(2) Red or completely unlighted signal shall stop in the same manner as at a stop sign, and the right to proceed shall be subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign as provided in section 3323 (relating to stop signs and yield signs).Pennsylvania General Assembly
How Long To Wait
Even though Motorcycles are permitted to proceed through traffic signals that fail to change, this does not mean that riders are free to run traffic signals at will. The law does not specify a specific waiting period; however, the average duration of a Red Light is between 60 and 90 seconds. I suggest riders wait for double this time (between 2 and 3 minutes) before proceeding through the failed signal.
This ensures plenty of time for the traffic signal to change and decreases the likelihood of a traffic stop.
Tips to Trigger The Light
While researching this topic, I found a very informative video from YouTuber Kwakajack. This video details various ways a Motorcycle Rider can trigger a Traffic Signal. While this video is not specific to Pennsylvania, it is a valuable source of information.
Position Yourself Over the Sensor
When the Inductive Loop System is installed, it is cut into the roadway and placed close to the surface. Under normal circumstances, the cutout is visible. It will appear as a large square or rectangle close to the intersection.
The best chance to trigger the sensor is to stop your motorcycle across one leg of the line – keeping the engine directly above the Inductive Loop Sensor. The higher amount of metal in the engine has the best chance of triggering the sensor.
Another option is to lower your kickstand and place it directly onto the cutout. The metal in the kickstand, coupled with the metal in the engine, could be enough to disrupt the magnetic field and cause the traffic signal to cycle.
Press The Pedestrian Crossing Button
Depending on the location of the Traffic Signal, it may contain a Pedestrian Crossing Button. Pedestrians use this button to trigger the signal to change and allow them to cross safely. In addition to the Walk signal, the traffic light will also turn green to traffic moving in the same direction as the pedestrian.
This solution isn’t ideal, but a motorcycle rider can dismount and press the pedestrian crossing button in a pinch. The change isn’t instant and will leave ample time to return to your motorcycle and prepare to move through the intersection.
Ask Vehicles to Pull Closer
Sometimes the best way to trigger the Vehicle Detection System is to get help from a nearby car or truck. To do this, pull as far forward as you can safely. Place your Motorcycle in Neutral and turn your body towards a vehicle behind you. Once you have their attention, wave to the driver to slowly pull forward. The objective is to get the vehicle in a position to trigger the Inductive Loop Sensor for you.
Since the sensors are designed to detect large vehicles easily, the helpful driver should be able to trigger the traffic light easily.
Green Light Triggers
Since the Inductive Loop system uses a magnetic field to detect vehicles, many believe it can be triggered with a Neodymium Magnet. There is a lot of debate over the efficiency of a strong magnet mounted to the frame of a motorcycle, but it is an inexpensive option to try.
The magnet should be mounted as low as possible on the frame. This will position the magnet close to the wiring embedded in the road and gives it the best chance of triggering the Vehicle Detection System.
Sometimes It Is Best To Turn Around
Even if the Pennsylvania Ride on Red Law is on your side, sometimes the best course of action is to turn around. This is especially important if you find yourself in a position where you can’t see past a bend or an obstruction, and oncoming traffic isn’t clearly visible.
A quick U-Turn may add a few minutes to your trip, but it could save you from being in a tense situation where you can’t see traffic.
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