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Radar cuts wait time for cyclists at Salt Lake City intersections

SHARE Radar cuts wait time for cyclists at Salt Lake City intersections

SALT LAKE CITY — Cyclists often get frustrated waiting at red lights when there’s no traffic around.

A year ago, Salt Lake City installed new radar equipment at 10 intersections that allows cyclists to trigger the green light, so they do not have to run the red light.

City officials said the light at 1300 South and 200 East stays green all day for east-west traffic. Until the city installed new detection equipment, cyclists traveling the other direction had to wait for a car to trigger the light, or run the red.

Now, the light knows when a cyclist is waiting at the intersection.

“We know that a lot more people are riding,” said Becka Roolf, who regularly rides her bike to work and is a Salt Lake City transportation planner.

The majority of city traffic signals were installed to operate on a valleywide timer, designed to give the most time to motorists on state roads.

“You won’t get a signal to go through on that minor street unless you specifically trigger it,” Roolf said.

New Wavetronix detection devices were installed to change that.

“This is how the detector sees the car,” said Cody Christensen, traffic signal technician.

A matrix of 16 microwave signals would detect a cyclist or any vehicle that enters the detection zone.

“It’s pinging the whole time. Sensing anything that’s there,” Christensen said.

When a cyclist pulls onto the bicycle icon on the street, the light will soon turn green.

“It’s certainly something that helps people who want to be law-abiding to be more law-abiding,” Roolf said.

“It’s better than having to walk over to the button, push it and then get back on your bike,” said bicycle commuter William Walton.

He wasn’t sure he was being detected when he pulled up, but he intuitively did the right thing.

“I didn’t know it was there. The marker on the ground kind of tipped me off that that’s what it was going to do,” said Walton.

The city upgraded 10 intersections with the equipment, using a matching $50,000 grant.

“It’s more convenient for bicyclists to get around town,” Walton said.

Officials with the Utah Department of Transportation also recently installed thousands of the markers at intersections across the state. Cyclists should look for the icon on the road when they ride.

“We should be giving people who choose to ride bicycles every bit as much a chance to get the green signal as we would a motorist,” Roolf said.

The city has made this bicycle detection part of its traffic signal standard. As the city upgrades signals across town, the detection capability will eventually be part of every intersection.

Intersections where the equipment has been installed are:

  • 800 East at South Temple
  • 5600 West at Amelia Earhart Drive
  • Main Street at South Temple Street
  • Wolcott Street at 100 South
  • Wiley Post Way at Wright Brothers Drive
  • 200 East at 1300 South
  • 400 East at 1300 South
  • 300 South at 700 East
  • Star Crest Drive at 700 North
  • Emery Street at California Avenue