Will your bike make the traffic signal change?

The city of Ottawa puts three yellow dots on the traffic loop buried at intersections, marking where cyclists should stop to activate the signal. I don’t think many cyclists know this; and frankly, I don’t trust these marks to actually work. The one I use the most, at Lanark/Scott, seems pretty iffy to me.

Here’s an instructional sign, from another city. It’s a tad ambiguous, since it shows the cyclist at right angles to the line, when in fact your bike should be both tires on top of the line…

7 thoughts on “Will your bike make the traffic signal change?

  1. The representation of the cyclist at right angles to the line probably relates to the painted replica of this logo on the pavement. At least, that’s how I’ve seen it represented in other cities. But yes, it is a tad ambiguous if this is not the case.

  2. I find that the dots generally work, at least the ones I use (Laurier and Bronson), but some are notorious that if you move off the dots the count down resets–even if the other light has already turned red! (Basically your light won’t turn green, in some places, unless you’re on the spots until it switches to green and don’t leave them a moment sooner.)

  3. I also find that the dots work, including at Shillington and Fisher. The placement of the sensor is less than ideal, however. If I’m sitting there waiting for the light to change and a car comes behind me and wants to turn right, I’m in its way.

    1. Well if you were driving a car you’d be in its way anyway… but the way I avoid this issue is to plant myself over the left line of dots rather than the right side line of dots. Generally speaking the left line is far enough over to the left that a car can pull up and pass you on your right. I can’t say I’ve ever had any negative reaction from would-be right-turning drivers positioning myself this way as most seem to get it that I’m positioned there for their convenience to let them past (whether they realize I’m activating the sensor is another matter – I suspect not).

      Straight ahead drivers though… that can be a bit more mixed. Some probably figure they’ll never get to go since their car is not over the sensors and as they probably don’t know about the 3 yellow dots thing they don’t realize that I’m activating them (they’re in the same clueless category as the cyclists who pass you to go push the crosswalk button). Others probably just don’t like the idea of cyclists in the middle of a lane.

      When I start up I just go off diagonally towards the right and out of the way quickly. Since I am one of the 1 in 100 cyclists who actually has the good sense to stop in a low gear and since I don’t mess around trying to get my foot into a clipless clip pedal, I can generally outpace a car across a basic intersection as cyclists have the advantage of maximum torque at zero rpm, unlike most cars (electric cars excepted).

  4. I too find that the dots generally work, but I also don’t see too many other cyclists using them… heading off to the sidewalk push-button seems to be the usual tactic*. I’ve known about them since they first came into existence, but that’s because I also knew the people who campaigned to get them and I took a CAN-BIKE course. In the early days there was a semi-educational aspect to the dots since at the time the sensor loops were often directly visible but would also get the dots so if you had already figured out that you could activate the lights by riding onto the sensor loops you could, with a bit of, ahem, common sense, figure out that the dots indicated a sensor loop and apply that knowledge to places where the loops were buried. These days however with most loops buried the dots are to most people without any past knowledge a curious artifact on the road that really lends no clue as to what its purpose is.

    I think the design should be changed a bit. I’d start by turning them into London Tubesque-style roundels with a bar sticking out each end in line with the sensor loop (so perpendicular to what the London Tube roundels look like) . Then on the dot itself I’d have a little bicycle symbol but with the wheels running parallel to the sensor loop and offset to one side so that the ‘bottom’ of the bicycle wheels on the stencil were basically right above the sensor loop itself.

    *I can forgive other cyclists for not knowing about this three yellow dots feature, but what gets me is when I’m standing there with my bike lined up on the dots and some other cyclist goes past me and up on to the sidewalk to press the button. I mean… wtf? Are these people not the least bit curious why I’m waiting where I am? Do they think that were it not for them showing up, I’d be waiting there until the next car turned up?

  5. Man, I’ve never even seen bike dots in the road! The bike sensors work well on the MUP I use every day crossing Centrepointe (at the northeast crossing.) I don’t think there are bike sensors in the road at the other places I cross all the time, like crossing Woodroffe at Meadowlands. In fact, I have been stuck for an entire light cycle because I forgot to get off my bike and go push the pedestrian signal button there. That’s what I usually do when crossing Merivale and Fisher on my way to Carleton – get off and push the pedestrian button. It works well enough. What’s annoying is when pedestrians don’t realize they have to push the button in order to get the walk signal. I always push the button. I don’t understand people who just stand there and assume they’ll get the walk signal.

    1. If the lights are on a permanent timer, as I suspect would be the case for Meadowlands at Woodroffe, Merivale and Fisher, then there are no sensors at all nor would there be any dots for bikes. Sensors and dots are only present at demand signals.

      Some lights that are on permanent timers may not have a left turn as part of the permanent cycle and such do have left-turn demand sensors along with the dots. An example of this is at the left turn from eastbound Carling to northbound Churchill.

      As to pedestrians, all-too-often pedestrians are considered a ‘special case’ on permanent cycles like left turns, especially in suburban locales, so pedestrians do have to push the button to request a walk signal in those locations. Otherwise they’ll face an orange hand when parallel traffic has a green light. At some intersections pedestrians get an automatic signal in one direction (generally with the bigger road) while they have to request it to cross the bigger roads. In that regard, the treatment for pedestrians is actually less consistent and poorer than it is for cyclists!

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