Have you ever sat at a red light, that will not turn green, with no other traffic around? Maybe the light is broke, but maybe it's not the lights fault. More than likely it can't tell you are there. Red lights, or traffic signals, work two different ways. One, they work on a timer. Most city traffic signals work this way. I want to talk about the other method in which traffic signals work.

Copper wires, called loops, are embedded in the pavement create a magnetic field.  The loop patterns will vary some, but usually follow the widths of automobiles.  When a vehicle pulls on top of the wires, a signal is sent to the controller. You may have seen the controller on the corner. It is the aluminum box that contains the computers which change the lights according to a preset sequence when traffic volumes are high.  When you are sitting there on the bike late at night, the controller can sense you are there and change the red light to green.

 Now back to the problem. . If you don’t pull on top of the loop wires, the controller doesn’t know you are there, and will not change the light.

motorcycles at a stoplight a motorcycle at a stoplight
Figure 1.     RIGHT Figure 1.     WRONG

Notice the rider circled in Figure 1.  He has the tires on top of the loop wires. This is the place where you need to be when you are riding alone. The other  bike in Figure 1 is also on the loop wires and helps send the signal to the controller to change the light. The rider in Figure 2, with the X, is in the wrong place. He is not touching any loop wires, and will not change the light. Not all intersections have loops, and sometimes you can't see the saw marks where the loop wires are, but if you stop in the circled area of Figure 1, you  increase your odds at turning the red light to green.


If you are still having problems with a certain lane or intersection, you will need to find out who owns/maintains the system and contact them to correct the problem. Usually the local district office of the Transportation Dept. can help.