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California Traffic-Actuated Stoplights

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Nov. 21, 2003
I received the attached response from Senator Jackie Speier regarding my concern and proposal regarding California's traffic-actuated stoplights. I thought her reply was a bit terse and an oversimplification of the issue.

What do other MOrons have to say about such a proposal and Senator Speier's response?

Torr Melling

Here is the raw text of Senator Speier's response and below that is my initial letter to the members of the California Transportation Subcommittee:
____________________
November 3, 2003

Torr Melling
San Diego, CA 92104-2160

Dear Torr:

Thank you for your recent letter. I must respectfully disagree with your suggested solution to the problem of traffic actuated stop lights.

It is my understanding that some jurisdictions have installed the type of lights that you prefer. Your letter is correct: these are (perhaps) more expensive but in any event it would be very expensive to retrofit existing lights.

Allowing drivers to go through or to make left turns on red lights seems dangerous to me. It is already difficult enough, in California, to get people to stop at red lights. Im not going to author legislation that offers an affirmative defense or that grants permission beyond the present laws, given the danger that I perceive. I will wait to evaluate the experience of Tennessee and Minnesota before supporting that type of change in the law. If theres a problem with these lights at night, they can be programmed to become blinking red lights and thereby perform their function in light of night-time conditions. In my own district, the El Camino Reals lights are often switched over to blinking mode at night.

Thank you for your letter. I am sorry that I am unable to support the change that you suggested. I did support AB 2521 (La Suer) and I still think that a gradual transformation of the lights as they are updated is the best approach.

All the best,

Jackie Speier
STATE SENATOR
8th Senate District

KJS/bp
____________________
October 21, 2003

Via US Mail

Senator Jackie Speier (D-CA 8th)
California State Senate
2032 State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: California Legislature Transportation Committee/California Traffic-Actuated Stoplights

Dear Senator Speier:

Attached please find an overview of an issue I hope you and the other transportation committee members will consider on behalf of all California motorcycle riders.

I await your reply and thank you in advance for your time and attention in this matter.

Sincerely,

Torr Melling

/tm
Encl.
____________________
To Whom It May Concern:

I am a home-owning, tax-paying resident of the State of California, a registered voter (who also votes) and a full-time motorcycle rider. I ride a motorcycle for numerous personal reasons, not the least of which is my concern for fuel conservation. I have a concern over the widespread installation of traffic-actuated (magnetic sensor-equipped) stoplights within California that regularly do not recognize motorcycles or bicycles due to their lack of a magnetic signature and extensive use of aluminum. I have waited through more than one cycle at numerous traffic-actuated stoplights until another vehicle approaches (to trigger the stoplight to cycle) before motorcyclists are able to proceed. Additionally, at times with minimal traffic, I have actually parked my motorcycle in the traffic lane and walked to the light pole to push the button for a pedestrian-activated switch to cycle the light. While I find these lights extremely helpful while driving a four-wheeled vehicle at times when there is little cross-traffic, they work well as they were designed and engineered. Unfortunately, this unanticipated flaw exists and I respectfully propose that it be addressed as soon as possible. I put this analogy to any reasonable person: imagine traffic-actuated stoplights only cycling when two or more cars are present. There would be widespread outrage by California motorists if they were forced to wait before they are able to proceed, and yet this is precisely what happens when motorcyclists approach these intersections.

Last year, the State of California attempted to address this issue with SB2521 which mandated all new and reconstructed traffic-actuated stoplights in the state to recognize motorcycles and bicycles. It was vetoed due to cost considerations. This senate bill, if it had passed, still did not properly address the issue of previously-installed traffic-actuated stoplights. I also do not purport to encourage the widespread running of stoplights, but rather a viable, responsible alternative to waiting needlessly, and at times sometimes dangerously , for traffic-actuated stoplights.

This year, the State of Tennessee enacted a law (SB1200) which allows a motorcycle, after coming to a complete stop and using due caution and observing the right of way, to proceed through a traffic-actuated stoplight. The State of Minnesota has also provided a legal means for a motorcyclist to proceed through a traffic-actuated stoplight that does not recognize a motorcycle. During the 2002 legislative session, the Minnesota Legislature passed an affirmative defense provision for motorcyclists who are stuck at a red light and are ticketed for proceeding through the red stoplight.

I would therefore respectfully propose legislation to be presented for any viable alternative to motorcyclists waiting unnecessarily at traffic-actuated stoplights. In the meantime, I am circulating the attached petition and hoping you will consider a dialog regarding this issue. Thank you for your time and attention in this regard and best personal wishes.

Sincerely,

Torr Melling

/tm
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