Calling in a Light Sensor Problem



Calling in a Light Sensor Problem

I’ve become more diligent recently about calling in road issues to RIDOT and local city/town governments. For the most part, the comments have been well received and are acted upon. Today, I thought I would try my luck calling in to RIDOT’s maintenance division (401-222-2378) about a light sensor which I can’t trigger with my bicycle. The conversation went something like:

Me: Hi, I’m calling to report that there is a traffic light sensor at the corner of Chestnut and 114 that I can’t trigger with my bicycle.

Call Center: So you can’t trigger it with your motorcycle

Me: No, I can’t trigger it with my bicycle

Call Center: Well, the sensors don’t work with bicycles

Me: Actually they do, there are plenty of sensors that I trigger all the time. I’ve been told that they can be adjusted so that they will respond to bicycles.

Call Center: They can’t be triggered by a bicycle, it doesn’t weigh enough

Me: Actually, the sensors work by means of magnetic induction. I ride a full steel bicycle that has plenty of metal and it should be able to trigger a properly tuned sensor

Call Center: Okay, what town was that again… I’ll send out a crew

… and there ended the conversation. I frequently ride by this intersection and I’ll be sure to check on it during upcoming weeks. It’s unfortunate that I seemed to know more about how these light sensors work than someone who is answering the phone at the maintenance division. Regardless, I thought I would share my experience and some wisdom about how such a conversation can go, giving others enough information to combat any sort of challenge that it should be possible for bicycles to trigger a light sensor.


  • Sep 9, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I heard back from Steve Church the state bike coordinator. He informed me that you can also complete an online report rather than calling.

  • Sarah
    Sep 9, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Thanks, Mark! This is good to know. I usually end up running the light when traveling east at Point and Eddy Street because the light will just stay red if no other cars are waiting for it. I'll look into the online report…

  • Sep 9, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Thanks Mark! I didn't know they could be tuned for bikes. I did know they were induction, though! ha! I often end up waiting for a car at Huxley and Eaton streets.

  • BikeOnStreets
    Sep 10, 2010 at 4:03 am

    What about those of us on non-steel frames?

  • Sep 13, 2010 at 5:48 am

    @BikeOnStreets – non-steel frames are a real problem. There is so little metal in some of the all carbon fiber bikes, there really isn't much the sensors can do to pick you up. There are newer sensors, you'll see some of them in MA, that have a really high density loop in a certain location and there is a bicycle painted on the pavement. These *might* be able to pick up such a bike.

    I think the official DOT policy on this is that you should use the ped signal. I tend towards waiting a reasonable amount of time and safely proceeding through the intersection.

  • Sep 13, 2010 at 5:50 am

    I just received another confirmation from Steve Church. According to RIDOT, we should assume that they are responsible for all loop detectors whenever a state highway intersects with a local city/town street. The detector I was actually having problems with was on a town street, but this confirms that my call to RIDOT was the correct course of action and they are responsible for this loop detector.