Red lights are a necessary part of maintaining the order on the road. To me, they have been a math project, an excuse, a game, and downright annoying.
When I was in fourth grade, one of the things that we learnt in math was averages. Since it seemed that we were often in the car, Mom encouraged me to time how long we were stopped at red lights, and for me to compute an average of time stopped. She recommended that I only time it if I saw it turn red. It was often hard to see the stopwatch, though, because it was night time, and Dad didn’t like me turning on the lights in the car.
In class, I had previously computed the average, and gave a transparency with some of the data that I collected (rounded to the nearest full-second), and had concluded based on my non-scientific sample of lights, that (quoted to the best of my memory from what I wrote in fourth grade) “The average wait time at a red light was 43 seconds. Quite a long time to wait, eh?”
When I got to middle school, I went on more car rides, due to League, school not being in our neighborhood, and the synagogue. Whenever Mom was late, she said, “I hit all the red lights.” (If Dad was picking us up late, he would sometimes gruffly say, “Picking you up is not one of my high priorities.”) This was before cell phones were commonplace, so I had to wait in concern while Mom came to pick me up. My siblings and I never believed her, until we started driving. More on this later…
As I got to driving age, traveling to League in East Park Plaza from home on Fridays was a trip down 70th Street, which had 15 stop lights at the time (Pine Lake, Nebraska Highway, Old Cheney, [Glynoaks], Stacy, Pioneers, Holmes, Van Dorn, South, [Sumner], A, Teton, Wedgewood, L, and O.) I counted in a “contest” style, and frequently lost 6-9 or 7-8 (i.e. 6 red lights and 9 red lights, etc.) The ones that were especially frustrating were Sumner or Glynoaks, because those are only red when the crosswalk button is pushed.
Although I don’t always count red lights when travelling, I sometimes go on phases of counting or not. One thing that I have noticed is that they are NOT designed for continuity of bike travel. Exhibit A: on the Four Star Bike & Chow earlier this year, part of the ride went in the protected bike lanes of Dearborn. My peloton got stopped at EVERY red light on Dearborn.
Exhibit B: Yesterday. I went to a friend’s house for a Halloween pumpkin-carving party. I rode my bike down the channel trail in Evanston, Skokie, Lincolnwood, and Chicago. After getting green lights at Green Bay and at Emerson/Golf/McCormick to start out with a 2-4 score, I then got stopped at the next 13 red lights in a row, and finished with a terrible 8-17 score. And running a light is not an option, thank you very much.
Still, I’d rather have the red lights, because anything that helps to prevent crashes is a good thing.
Today is the twenty-fifth day of O.C.T.O.B.E.R. That makes three weeks and four days.