Tripping a traffic light, for motorcyclists

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In the western States (currently Nevada & NorCal) most lights have optic sensors for identifying approaching emergency vehicles. Depending on what I’m riding I’ll either flip the high on/off or just oscillate the handlebars to get the light across the sensor. I also flash my high beams in my car when approaching a red light, cuz, why wait if you don’t have to.

In cases where that doesn’t work, I think (don’t hold me to it) in Nevada it’s two cycles and then you can treat it like it’s a flashing red (basically a stop sign) - but I always treat a red light like a stop sign when turning.

Also, when coming up to a stop in traffic, I park to the side of either lane, so I’m on the outside of the cars. Not once but twice I’ve heard the screech + crash of the person behind me rear-ending the person in front and I’m off to the side thanking my lucky stars.


I ride a lot and all of the bike’s I’ve ever owned were so light that they didn’t trip the light. A lot of times the gov has installed a little box for bicyclists that will trip, I go for those if they’re there. After a few minutes of sitting at a light if the coast is clear I’ll just run it, which is legal in my state. Sometimes I’ll also plan my route around certain lights that I know don’t trigger especially if there is a ton of cross traffic but not much traffic following me. I’ll have to look into triggering devices… that seems like a neat idea.

I like to trip the traffic lights fantastically, when appropriate. Otherwise, run 'em.


Hit while waiting at an intersection is pretty much my #1 fear.


At one particular intersection I had enough room to pull forward and motion the car behind me to inch forward over the sensor.

I got stuck at a light once when one car had stopped slightly too far ahead of the sensor, but not far enough ahead that the next driver could roll onto it. The driver had already waited for several cycles, and after a couple more I walked up to her window, explained the problem, and suggested that she would have to run the light if she - and the quarter mile of cars behind her - were to ever get home.


Attach a good sized magnet at the bottom of your oil pan. It will serve to trip most lights and has the added benefit of capturing any tiny bits of ferrous metal that may be in your oil.


Agreed - I don’t “relax” (ie: take bike out of gear, hands of controls and stop looking in mirrors) until I’m “boxed” in, but even then, I keep my head on a swivel and continually look in my mirrors for changes or approaching boxers going waaaay too fast.

That said, cages turning left are my greatest fear.

I ride “fast” - though really just faster than the traffic around me - so I’m continually moving through traffic. I’ve been merged into way too often to sit in traffic. Heck, I was merged into by someone who was following me, so… yea. Keep the shiny side up out there.


That I like and am now actively considering this…

Check the laws in your state first. If a “triggering device” works by flashing lights (or IR) to look like an emergency vehicle then it may be illegal.


In doing a spot of reading on this, the lights with the optic sensors do indeed seem to trip on infrared, but that would seem to be a pretty easy one to use w/out getting caught if it’s on a switch - what with it being out of the visible spectrum and all.

… & you can get them at bang-up prices from old “night vision” security cameras

The “Green Light Trigger” and “Red Light Changer” mentioned in the article are simply large magnets, being sold for $25-$35! Save yourself $20 or so and grab one off an old speaker, (the coils are actually rather sensitive).

Yeah, I think that is mostly likely and also cause of most terrible, non-fatal accidents. Rather than road rash and skidding down the road, you just get CRUSHED or hurled by the impact.

Except many intersections have cameras that start recording if the optic is tripped.
This is partly to catch “cheaters” and partly to sort out what happened if an emergency vehicle gets into an accident.

Hmmmm, makes sense - we don’t have traffic cameras out there tho… so, news to me on that front, but not surprising now that you mention it.

I always weave a bit (and slow down) if I see somebody wanting to turn in front of me. That used to work better with older bikes where the headlight was attached to the fork brace so even a small handlebar movement made a flashing effect. With newer bikes it takes a much larger weave - I’ve been thinking of getting a separate light somewhere on the forks or fender just for that. (Maybe some low fog-lights that are always on?)

Nevada, I have no experience on a motorcycle. In NorCal, which you referenced earlier, cameras at intersections are the pervasive norm many large urban areas. San Rafael, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento all have them. San Francisco may have more traffic cameras than parking spaces.

I guess we just have to live with this sort of thing now, but I nonetheless find it amusing that the blog view turned the bulletted list into some kind of strange stream-of-consciousness rant.

Anyway, I went on a tour of the local traffic department once and they demonstrated that triggering the light could be managed simply by tossing a palm-sized square of metal over the appropriate spot. But I suppose real world road-conditions must be substantially less ideal.

As far West as I get in NorCal is usually Auburn, unless I’m heading to Thunderhill, Laguna or Sears Point (I can never remember it’s new name). I have to admit I haven’t noticed them in Auburn, but I rarely deviate from I-49 when I’m there (it used to be the closest In-n-Out to Reno) but I still go there a couple times a year because the trip between Reno and Auburn along 49 is amazeballs, as is the return trip via Wentworth Springs / Ice House and/or Omo Ranch Rd.

I ain’t too sure I’ve ever noticed a “red” light when I’m ridin’ mah motor-ciccle.