Malfunctioning Traffic Signals

Another important law that was updated via HB 154 relates to malfunctioning traffic signals. many time have you not been detected as traffic at a traffic light intersection?  This part of the new law is for you!  You may have seen news reports like "Drivers in Ohio may soon be able to legally run red lights" and others that mislabeled it as the "Red Light Law" verses the "Malfunctioning Signal Law".  We already had a law in ORC 4511.132 that provide guidance on what to do if the traffic light was malfunctioning.  Here is the existing ORC with the new portion added in green:

(A) The driver of a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley who approaches an intersection where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals shall do all of the following, if the signal facing the driver exhibits no colored lights or colored lighted arrows , exhibits a combination of such lights or arrows that fails to clearly indicate the assignment of right-of-way, or the signals are otherwise malfunctioning, including the failure of a vehicle detector to detect the vehicle:

Note the term "vehicle" was used so as to include bicycles, horse-drawn carriage  All the other conditions in ORC 4511.132 existed before the new law, including the due care for safely passing through the malfunctioning signal.  The publicity of the dreaded "Red Light Law" caused lawmakers to include a provision to change to say "bicycles" verses "vehicles".  Wow!  The good news is that the original intent remains, to support bicyclists who are not detected at traffic signals.

When you encounter a signal that is not recognizing you as traffic, use the following guidelines:

  1. Look for grooves or marks in the roadway that form a circle, this may be the inductive loop that is meant to sense the metal in your "vehicle". Place you bike directly on top of one of the lines that run in your direction of travel.  This may help the signal detect you.
  2. Look for camera at the intersection that may be used for detection, it will be directly across the street, usually connected to the light that you are waiting to change.  If may need to motion with you arm but generally, these systems are better than the inductive loop.
  3. According to ODOT, traffic signals usually cycle within 2-3 minutes depending on time-of-day. If you've waited ~4 minutes, you can feel fairly certain that it will never pick you up to change the signal.
  4. Now you should treat the intersection just like you have a stop sign with cross traffic that does not stop.  Look for a break in traffic, both to the left and right and when clear, proceed through the intersection with caution.

In reality, we encounter this same intersection on a regular basis, on a side street with stop sign, waiting for cross traffic to clear in order to proceed. This change in the law only recognizes that traffic signals may not register bicycles due to their low metal composition, allow us to proceed through a malfunctioning signal legally.

Cyclists should note that if you encounter a traffic signal that does not detect you, report the intersection with details to ODOT.  They will try to correct or refer your inquiry to the jurisdiction that owns the signal (may be city or township).  They successfully corrected a signal on my commute!

"Real News References"