I have to include a link to a certain xkcd comic as well…
One of my personal pet peeves when using transportation infrastructure as a cyclist is a worst-of-b0th-worlds situation. In particular, if I am at a red light, I would be committing a double whammy if I am to “transform” from a vehicle into a pedestrian (i.e. go into the crosswalk that has the “DONT WALK” signal. That trades violating a vehicle rule for violating a pedestrian rule, and I don’t like to jay-walk. Even if I won’t get caught for it, I am more concerned about getting hit than getting ticketed.
Unfortunately, the crosswalk to cross Sheridan Road at Foster Street is in Evanston is incredibly annoying at night–it has the “TO CROSS PRESS BUTTON” trigger. But even if you trip it at night, what happens? Eventually, the crosswalk going north-south (mind you, I am trying to head west) will count down from 16 to 0. Normally, when a crosswalk hits 0, the traffic light then turns yellow and red, and my crosswalk will display the “WALK” signal.
But NO! At night, the button acts much like the “Door Close” button on an elevator–it does NOTHING! The wrong crosswalk will count down to 0, and then change immediately from DONT WALK to WALK. I have had many a time of being forced to jay-bike across the intersection after returning home from bridge or board game club.
What does this have to do with blinking, you wonder? Well, in some places, traffic lights turn into red or yellow flashers during the night time. For example, in some parts of the west side of Omaha and its suburbs (canonical example, near Oak View Mall), the traffic lights at minor intersections change into flashing yellow lights (proceed with caution) on the arterial 144th Street, and are flashing red lights (a-la a stop sign) on the other sides.
When traffic is super-light (i.e. if you are the only car on the road), I have a feeling that people are more likely to violate traffic control devices. It’s another idea of spirit-of-the-law versus letter-of-the-law. (Somewhat frighteningly, I have seen this firsthand–there was once a cab that I rode in at 01:30 that violated a red light in returning me to Evanston.)
I feel that Omaha has the right idea here, that Evanston and other cities should implement. Even if there are tripwires on the minor streets that will activate the green light for that intersection at night, I feel that it is more fail-safe to just turn it into a red flashing light later at night. Partially, this is a selfish reason, based off the failure of the “TO CROSS PRESS BUTTON” and the fact that my bike will not trip those sensors.
Today is the ninety-seventh day of M.M.X.I.V. That makes thirteen weeks and six days.