Dispatch: Scooters Don't Trigger Stoplight Sensors. Oh, Really?

A problem that cyclists have been clamoring about for years has finally gotten the attention of the Columbus Dispatch - because it's been noticed by Scooter riders!

Many of Columbus's stoplight vehicle sensors are magnetically triggered when a car, AKA a big hunk of metal, drives over them. However, a problem that I've mentioned several times in the past, but been totally ignored even when I requested help from the city on this matter, is that bicycles, and now apparently scooters, don't contain enough metal to set them off, leaving cyclists no choice but to run red lights.

A company in town sells a magnetic gadget that is supposed to help set them off, but according to the Dispatch article, it doesn't work.

One trick that I've used with varying results is to position my bike directly over the seam in the road where the coil was inserted. Like I said, this has varying results. Another is apparently to lay down your bike over the coil and hope that getting the metal closer to the coil will set it off.

But let's return to the article at hand. Here's the most annoying part of this story:

If no other option works, report a troublesome intersection to the city, and Foster or another worker will simply turn up the sensitivity of the metal-detecting loop.

The city doesn't want them to be too sensitive.

A parked car "may actually set it off even though they're several feet away from it," Foster said.

Or, as I discovered when I requested help, the city will tell you that you should get off your bike, in the middle of the lane, and go hit the button at the crosswalk to get it to trigger.

Either way, this situation is ridiculous. In their attempts to create an infrastructure that allows cars to zip along at top speed, without having to stop so much, they've created a bigger problem - and one that will continue to get bigger as more people eschew cars for more practical bikes and scooters. The real answer is to turn all these things off and simply have a regular pattern for ALL traffic lights, no matter if anyone's there or not.

People, not speed.


  1. FWIW, I've been able to trigger every signal in Upper Arlington with my steel frame bike if I line myself up with the seam.

  2. Wendy you win the physics prize!

    Jamie learn what trips the sensor loop! http://www.cyclistview.com/signaldetection/index.htm

    Surprise, is not the amount of metal or whether the frame is steel or carbon. A alloy rim on the seam (see sweet spot) of the loop is >10x better detector than the frame.

    Helping cyclists or scooter (moped) driver is easy! City needs to check/adjust the sensitivity of the loops then add bicycle detector pavement marking and bicycle signal actuation (R10-22) sign. Give the Traffic Dept a loop detector test rig: http://tinyurl.com/d7cjym

    Using a pedestrian push button is not a acceptable solution. Would you expect someone in a car or truck to get out of their vehicle to change a signal?

    Look at the Milton Ave (North Broadway Ave) button posts, cyclists block the pedestrian crossing and poorly position the cyclist for crossing the intersection or safely make a left turn. Are they really serious???Most properly adjusted, operating signal loops trip easily if you know where to stand. Pedestrian signal head at the crosswalk tell cyclist immediately if the signal will change.

  3. That's great, Wendy. Glad that UA is taking care of these things.

    danc, as I said pretty clearly in the post, I do line my bike up with the seam, and it still doesn't always work. Thanks for restating everything I already wrote.

    And even if you do position your bike correctly, other issues arise from that solution (as I wrote about and linked to in this post but will link to again).

  4. I'm glad you're able to get the sensors to trip in UA. I have a really hard time with it with my bicycle but an even greater problem with it with my dualsport motorcycle. At the corner of Mountview and Fishinger and at the corner of NW and Zollinger are the two lights that are consistently a problem for me. UA uses motion sensing cameras at both of those lights along with the roadbed sensors so you would think one of the two would catch me but no such luck. Regardless, I'm glad to hear it is finally getting some press.


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