MnDOT test could make intersections easier for cyclists

If you are a bike rider, you probably know the frustration of pulling up to an intersection where pressure plates or other gizmos force a light to turn green for cars. Bikes? Too light. So a cyclist has to hit the “walk” button.

So MnDOT’s experiment in Northfield is pretty significant.

It’s installed a radar system on a traffic signal to detect when a cyclist has arrived, Northfield News reports.

Jerry Kotzenmacher, Minnesota Department of Transportation traffic system specialist, often hears from cities and counties asking what MnDOT uses for bicycle sensors. Until now, Kotzenmacher didn’t have much for an answer.

“It’s kind of the first-if-its-kind,” he said, specifically for MnDOT, though some cities have implemented similar sensors. “It seems to be working very well.”

Rather than detecting metal mass, like the vehicle detection devices, he said the radar detects bicycles, specifically within a zone of 30 feet, across three lanes.

Once the bicyclists are detected and the light turns green, bicyclists begin pedaling and leave that 30-foot zone. Once the riders leave the zone they have 9.5 seconds to clear before the light turns yellow, he said.

MnDOT has tried to lower the sensitivity of the vehicle detectors to be able to recognize bicycles, but it hasn’t worked.