Weight for Green

I have a confession to make, Dear Reader.

Last night whilst cycling, I went through a red light.

There is a simple reason why I did it and I would just like to state my case.

You see, I broke the law because………………I’m almost too embarrassed to admit this…………………………….because I don’t weigh a ton.

I know, I know and, although my home nation would prefer it if I did weigh a ton, I’m very sorry for not weighing a ton. Despite my love of traditional hand drawn ales.

I rode over the ‘pad’ before the stop line at a  junction in Worthing, West Sussex, and I was just too light to trigger a green light or Channel 5 documentary team or cause any damage to the precious highway whatsoever.

Apparently, to trigger a green light at many junctions on the highways of Britain, one must be shaped like a one ton metal box or actually weigh somewhere upwards of a quarter of a ton to roll over a pad to trigger a green light. Otherwise one has to wait for about two or three phases at best before being allowed to continue on one’s journey, which I think beautifully sums up the British cycling experience of being treated like a mild but treatable rash or Celebrity Big Brother.

However, the South Coast at this particular moment in time was being buffeted by 50-70 mph gusts, the rain was lashing down and something in me finally snapped. I personally believe that if there is a painting in the world that best sums up the British cyclist and campaigner, it is ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch – the inspiration for his compositions came from a sunset walk he was taking with friends. The blood red sky and the screams from the asylum below culminated in a physical and natural scream.  After years of observing the local and national powers that be in a first world country such as ours fail to understand something so simple as a bicycle, combined with that blood red light in the driving Worthing rain drumming against my body, I started to understand what Munch might have been getting at.



If anyone was watching from the surrounding flats late last night, no doubt they have probably written to the Worthing Herald (because, you know, I might have killed someone) as they saw one of those irritating cyclists, without a helmet no less, and attempting to dress like a normal person, say ‘f*** this’ very loudly to himself after getting drenched for 5 minutes and proceed through a static red light to cycle across a 30 mph urban dual carriageway.

Another example of this hotbed of crime can be found on the cycle network of Brighton & Hove.

At the bottom of the segregated path of Grand Avenue, bicycle riders have to cross to the right hand lane to then continue over the road to pick up the east west seafront path as shown on this Google streetview. However, if a heavy motorised vehicle doesn’t pull up behind you, triggering the lights, then you can be stood there for quite a while. I always enjoy a sea view, but sometimes I would actually like to get to work. Many cyclists either dismount or ride to the nearby pedestrian/northbound cycle crossing and use that. I’ve done it myself as I actually enjoy seeing my son grow up, but that to me kind of defeats the object of cycle infrastructure.

Even Christoper Biggins would struggle on a Chopper…sorry, I was just trying to shoehorn a Christmas panto double entendre in. Sorry.

It’s not all doom and gloom – apparently, all one has to do is notify their local Council Highways Department and they can and will adjust the pressure pad so a bicycle can trigger it. It’s just the fact that we have to do this – to remind councils that we do exist and don’t weigh the sort of volumes that even damage roads.

Anyway, I have broken the law and am now a fugitive. I guess I’ll have to flee to another country. One that can actually design for a bicycle. Please.

3 Comments on Weight for Green

  1. @Al__S
    December 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    I didn’t think the UK used weight sensors? Usually electromagnetic induction loops. But those have a sensitivity setting, and indeed can be set so poorly that even a heavy steel bike won’t trigger them.

    The ones around Cambridge are almost all pretty good, the bike specfifc ones will even trigger for just metal wheels. I’ve so far found one general traffic one that fails miserably with my carbon bike- but several that are fine.

    Most can be “turned up”- ask the council. They should be able to do it easily. Badger your councillors.

  2. platinum
    December 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    It’s a slippery slope into dastardly criminality – soon you’ll be ripping CDs onto your ipod, eating mince pies on Xmas day or shooting Welsh people with a bow and arrow.

  3. Anthony Cartmell
    December 20, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    As others have pointed out, traffic light sensors are usually just wire coils in the road surface (you can usually see where they are) which work as metal detectors. These are sometimes supplemented by infra-red movement detectors (a box on the top of the post) if there are a lot of cyclists expected, as making the metal detector coils sensitive enough to pick up bicycles sometimes means they also pick up unwanted motor vehicles in other lanes.

    If the traffic lights don’t sense your bicycle, and don’t give you a green light anyway at some point in their cycle, then they are broken. If they are broken then you are legally allowed to pass them at red.

    You should also report the fact that they’re broken to the highway authority, who will send someone out to adjust the metal-detector sensitivity so it will sense bicycles.


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