Pedestrian lights are for pedestrians

Don't go punching pedestrian lights while on a bike, unless you're walking or it's designated for bikes. (Google maps photo)

Don’t go punching pedestrian lights while on a bike, unless you’re walking or it’s designated for bikes. (Google maps photo)


Being predictable on a bike could save your life and being unpredictable could cost you your life.

Recently I saw one of the most bizarre cycling behaviors, one that could have easily caused an accident. Fortunately it didn’t, but the cyclist should know why his action was so dangerous. Unfortunately he’ll probably never read this.

I was driving south on Saratoga Avenue in the right-turn only lane to enter the Interstate 280 on-ramp around 6 p.m. A cyclist was ahead with lights on and wearing a helmet. He looked like he knew what he was doing. I stayed behind him because the intersection was only 50 yards ahead. What really ticks me off is when a right-turning motorist pulls in front then stops so you can pass. I make a point of going left when I can. Treat bikes as you would a car and everything will be fine.

The light was green. The rider then slowed and pulled off the road. He punched the pedestrian light to make the orange hand turn white for go! At this point I slowed, not knowing his intentions. It’s a good thing I wasn’t rear-ended.

All he had to do was keep straight and everything would have been fine. Even if the light were red, he shouldn’t have pulled off the road to punch the light. In some situations where the button is within arm’s reach, that’s OK, but not when you have to pull off the road.

If you’re going to push a pedestrian light like that, you’d best be off your bike walking.

Ride like a motorist and you’ll be treated like one (usually).

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4 Responses to “Pedestrian lights are for pedestrians”

  1. Adina Says:

    Often there aren’t working “loop detectors” for bikes. So if you are on a bike and a red, or the short non-ped green won’t get you across a big intersection, you need the ped light or the light will not change for you.

  2. ladyfleur Says:

    I’m with Adina. Loop detectors often don’t detect bikes so you’re stuck waiting there, not knowing that the signal doesn’t know you’re there.

    On my commute I have two crossings that can take up to 90 seconds to flip *after* they detect a car or bike on the minor street. It’s no wonder people just get in the habit of hitting the pedestrian button for every signal. Those two loops happen to work properly, but unless you cross them regularly, how would you know?

  3. Ray Hosler Says:

    There were a million cars that evening. The light would have changed without him activating the signal.

  4. Art Harris Says:

    “Often there aren’t working “loop detectors” for bikes.”

    Sometimes the loop sensitivity needs to be adjusted for bikes. My local Highway Dept (in NY) did this when I brought it to their attention.

    Also, I can sometimes get a loop to trip by leaning my (steel) frame over the loop.

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