AMES, Iowa – If you’ve ever tried to ride your bicycle in the streets, chances are you’ve pulled up to a stoplight, only to wait for a green light that never seems to come. So you get off the road, press the pedestrian push button, and only then does the stop light give you the go ahead.
It’s something Matt Maxwell, a repairman at Skunk River Cycles in Ames has dealt with riding to work for a dozen years.
“You wait, and wait, and wait, and you eventually get impatient and run it,” said Maxwell.
Knowing many riders would rather take the risk than spend minutes waiting at a red light, City of Ames traffic engineers came up with a solution to better accommodate riders.
“If you want to ride on the street, because of the new radar, the signal can pick you up and we have better integration for bikes,” said Damion Pregitzer, a traffic engineer with for Ames Public Works.
What looks like a traffic camera is actually a radar detector that treats bicycles just like automobiles, signaling the stoplights as a bike pulls up to an intersection.
This keeps bike riders from having to get off the roads to get a green light, and since the detectors are simply attached to the lights, the city doesn’t have to carve up its roads to install them.
“We’re getting better bang for our buck on the streets. We get better pavement life. We don’t have to replace it as often,” said Pregitzer.
It’s a simple system riders like Maxwell say will make riders feel more welcomed on the roads.
“If you’re waiting at a street light and have five cars waiting to get around you, you don’t have to get off the road and hope a car triggers that sensor for you,” Maxwell told Channel 13 News.
The detectors are installed at 15 Ames intersections, marked with a bicycle painted in the bike lane.
In the future, the city also hopes to use the detectors for traffic studies.