Monday, October 26

Traffic Signal Camera Theories

"Western lights" - no cameras here, but you've seen them!
Back in June, here, I talked a bit about triggering traffic lights. The information is still good, and well worth a read if you're having trouble getting the lights to do what you want them to do without depending on a cooperative motorist to trigger them. Since then, I've not further pushed the state of the art on inductive loop signaling, unlike Rantwick, who here took it upon himself to bust the myth that magnets can help you trigger signal changes. He did stop short of having the magnets implanted into his feet, so there's still a remote possibility that magnets might make miracles.

This post is about those devilish cameras many traffic departments install nowadays, to help traffic lights know when to change. They see you - or maybe not. There's really no way to tell unless you see that the signal's changing. I've gotten more practice with these than I really wanted. Each day, I get just a touch better at tricking them into recognizing my presence. I've been thinking about this signal addendum for a while. Here's what I THINK I may have learned. I hope it helps. If it does, thank Rantwick's magnet for getting me off the stick:
  • The best spot to stop (left to right) is when the camera is pointing DIRECTLY at you. Sometimes that'll be the RH lane, sometimes the Center lane, and sometimes the LH lane. I don't know if this is intentional or just sloppy aiming. Still, it's not hard to see if the camera is pointed at you. THAT is the best spot to be.
  • Stop so the camera is aimed at your belly button or chest. If it's lined up at your head (eyes sighting in line with the camera axis), you're further forward than optimum. Stop a few feet back from that stop line. You want to occupy as many pixels as possible. This took a little more experience than the first item, but it really helps.
  • If you want to be proactive, wave your arms and head, sort of like you were doing jumping jacks. I have no idea if this really helps, but it makes me FEEL better and it can't hurt. Besides, if anyone asks, I'm just trying to trigger the darn light, as a standard, typical, law-abiding cyclist.
  • Turn your bike sideways if you feel like it (make a bigger signal), but be ready if the light starts changing, so you're not turned sideways with a green. That could be embarrasing to miss a light and any overtaking motorists would have their opinions of flaky cyclists totally confirmed. I have only tried this one twice. Neither seemed very satisfactory. I like to have my bike pointed in my intended direction of travel.
  • If a car comes up behind me, I find a way to waddle left or right so the motorist can use her car's superior bulk to take up more camera pixels. I always explain to the motorist that they're better at triggering lights than I am. It's not always true, but I hope it plants the notion that not all cyclist red light running is pure scofflawery. If nothing else, it engenders a spirit of cooperative good will.
  • On some occasions, notably where Church crosses Highway 26 in Colleyville, I've now have triggered cameras when a small car in the adjacent lane (lane #3) failed to do so. Motorists of the world take note! I will consider triggering signals for you in exchange for a small commission. However, I also learned, here, that a cyclist must be extra careful when triggering traffic signals in other than the "proper" places permitted by law to cyclists. Yup, at the same Church Street crossing.
  • And, once in a very rare while, when I feel like being particularly dramatic, I'll lay the bike down in the middle of the road, sprint over to push the pedestrian signal, and then dash back to the bike. No point in this unless there are witnesses. Preferably witnesses that work for the traffic department.
  • On occasion, you'll see a camera that's pointing in totally the wrong way. Neither you nor your motoring friends will trigger such. On Precinct Line/North Tarrant Pkwy, for a while, the camera facing west was misaligned by 80 degrees! It would get triggered by the folks going south on Precinct Line. It took the better part of a month before it got fixed. There was enough traffic that the thing would get triggered almost all the time. Wind around here sometimes does that.


ChipSeal said...

"He did stop short of having the magnets implanted into his feet, so there's still a remote possibility that magnets might make miracles."

Enough of the magnet slandering!

Magnets are a miracle worker in the medical field. Powerful magnets are used everyday in diagnostic procedures. Canadians travel to the USA for such treatments because of the long wait to use them in Canada. (MRI)

What is it that is able to push electrons down a wire to power your computer? Why, a magnet of course!

Magnets are an integral part of the functioning modern society. Magnets are not just for refrigerators!

Have you hugged a magnet today?

Rantwick said...

No cams here, but good to know. ChipSeal - way to love those magnets. I dig them bigtime too.

Steve A said...

No magnet hugging, and I haven't swallowed any either.

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