I’ve been riding motorcycles on and off for 10 years. One of the things that has irked me, continually, is that not all traffic lights “sense” that the motorcycle has stopped at the red light. These lights are on sensor systems and only change when triggered by a car pulling up – motorcycles are too small to register at some traffic lights. Result? Well, if you’re lucky, another car comes up behind you in a reasonable amount of time. However, late at night, you will just sit there indefinitely. You end up just running the light.

On my way into work this morning, the left turn signal at the corner of Shoreline and Villa (for those who care, when switching from southbound on Shoreline to eastbound on Villa) missed my arrival, and even though it was 9:30am and you’d expect multiple cars to come up behind me, there I sat for three cycles of the light. Still no one.

So, I called the cops. “Here’s the situation. (insert here everything i just wrote above). What should you do?” The officer who answered the phone asked me to hold.

A few minutes later she came back. She said something to the effect of, “None of our officers who ride motorcycles have that problem at that intersection.” I responded that it may be because their bikes are heavier than the one I ride. Regardless, it was happening to me, so I’d like to know what the proper procedure is.

“Turn in the other direction.”

Ok, but there are three lanes that head south on Shoreline I’d need to cross to make a right. I’m in the fourth lane over waiting for the turn signal. So it’d be just as illegal (and more dangerous) to make a right from the fourth lane over on the left.

Her response: “None of our officers have this problem, including our officers who ride dirt bikes. I can’t tell you to run the red light.”

I explained I understood this. However, I just wanted to know what I should do in this scenario.

Growing more frustrated, she suggested that I back my bike up, cross to the other side of the road since no one was coming down the road, and take the right.

At this point, I didn’t even bother with mentioning the light is positioned on a downhill, and I couldn’t quite back a 500 pound motorcycle up a hill (most motorcycles – mine included – don’t have a reverse gear). Not to mention that just because cars weren’t coming behind me in the left turn lane didn’t mean that there weren’t plenty of cars passing at 40 mph as they shot down Shoreline.

Now, to the officer’s credit who answered the phone, she did research for a few minutes with other officers who rode motorcycles. She also suggested that I call the traffic engineering bureau and report this (I did – turns out they knew this particular light had been a problem in the past – they thought it was fixed and would increase the sensitivity again). I wish, however, that she had constructively worked with me to find a legitimate solution rather than constantly point out this didn’t happen to any of the officer and that she couldn’t tell me to run a red light. I’m pretty sure I took a constructive tone on the call…I wish I could say the same for her. Instead, so fixated on not telling me to run a red light, she gave me a bunch of less safe options.


ps – shoulda just used Google in the first place – 21800(d)(1) CVC “The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so.” Net: run the light.