It looks harmless enough, but there’s something not quite right with the bike detector installed at the corner of Ninth Avenue when Oak Street was rebuilt a few years ago in front of the Albany Lowe’s.
Actually, two things. One, the detector doesn’t work, in my experience. And two, because it doesn’t work, it’s in the wrong place because when cyclists stand on top of it, waiting, they prevent motorists in the adjacent lane from making a right turn on red when there’s a gap in traffic on Ninth.
You can find out all kinds of stuff online about the technology that makes red signals turn green for motor vehicles, and for bicycles and motorcycles too. Inductive loop detectors work by sending an alternating current through a wire loop in the ground. The current creates a magnetic field. Steel or aluminum bike wheels disturb the magnetic field, and this tells the signal controller that someone is waiting.
Modern detectors shown online (in material from Washington and other states) are circular or square in relation to the bike lane, not the diamond shape visible here. Newer ones also have pavement markings telling a rider exactly where to stop and wait so that the sensor will detect the bike’s wheels.
That section of Oak Street has very little traffic (which makes you wonder why ODOT insisted that it be built, at the cost of millions.) This means that until a car comes along to trigger the light, a bike rider often has to stand there and wait.
The 2015 Oregon law that allows motorcyclists and bike riders to cross on a red signal after waiting “one full cycle” is useless. There are no detectable cycles when the signal just stays red.
If waiting forever at a signal looks to you very much like strictly a First World concern, and a very minor one at that, you are right. But you’d think that when road authorities require that bike detectors be installed — at what cost I do not know — they want to know when one of these gizmos doesn’t work. (hh)