Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Smile...You're on Stoplight Camera!

In a previous post titled Simon Says...Change!, I pondered how stoplights register whether a cyclist is awaiting a green light. Is it magnetic or an "electric eye"? Turns out it is "video detection", at least for some stoplights in Seattle. Here is the email I received in response to my inquiry.

"Thank you for writing to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to let us know of the difficulty you have experienced being detected by the traffic signal while riding your bicycle at the intersection of (X Street and Y Street). Providing safe and reliable access to all commuters is a priority for SDOT.

SDOT encourages alternative modes of transportation such as bicycles, scooters and motorcycles. We recognize the frustration experienced by cyclists when they approach a traffic signal and are not detected, forcing them to either wait for a vehicle to arrive or to travel through a red light - neither of which is a good option.

This intersection uses video detection. After receiving your e-mail, one of our technicians went to the site and created additional video zones for bicycle detection.

I hope this takes care of the issues you have been experiencing. If you should find that you are still having difficulty being detected, please let us know at (206) 386-1206 or SDOT is committed to making Seattle accessible for all modes of transportation.


Dianne Thomas, Traffic Signal Operations

Seattle Department of Transportation"

Unfortunately, I've had three weeks (as of today) of crud, and I haven't ridden my bicycle at all during that time. If you'd like to hear me complain about my malady, contact me offline and I'd be happy to complain to yet a new person. Everyone else runs when they see me coming! I'm quarantined it seems, not because folks are afraid of catching my crud, but because if they hear me complain again there head will explode. End of rant.

Point is, I haven't been able to field verify, but I sure liked the response  got from our Seattle DOT.

Once again, the obligation of municipalities to respond to such requests was won by the Bicycle Alliance of Washington in the legislature.

Here are the basics if you want to try it:

According to the Alliance: "The bill requires that vehicle traffic control systems be upgraded to reliably detect both bikes and motorcycles. Districts must prioritize upgrading on existing systems for which complaints were submitted. They must also establish and publicize a procedure for filing such complaints in writing or by e-mail, and must maintain a record of them."

The address for Seattle is:

For Washington State highways:

To get the proper address for other municipalities and counties in Washington, go to for cities and for counties.

Also, the Alliance would appreciate your letting them know how your experience goes as you interact with this new system. You can reach them at:

Thanks, BAW!

Keep change alive,


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