New bike lanes in southern Utah able to trigger traffic lights, UDOT says

Posted at 9:08 PM, May 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-14 23:08:23-04

ST GEORGE, Utah -- Bicyclists in St. George are getting a new position at intersections -- front and center. The Utah Department of Transportation installed new bicycle signals Wednesday, with a goal of helping commuters navigate busy intersections.

The technology behind traffic lights is relatively simple -- pull up to the line and trigger the radar. But for bicyclists riding on the side of the road, it has been more of a challenge.

“They would just sit there,” said Southern Utah Bicycle Association president Craig Shanklin. “Waiting for a car, eventually to come up from behind them and trip the light.”

Now UDOT is addressing that problem, using a new radar technology and putting bicycles in the middle of the road with the cars.

“The way it works is, as long as cyclists are in the lane, stopping at the stop bar, they will be able to trigger the traffic light,” said UDOT traffic signal engineer Mark Taylor.

The concept works much like a vehicle is able to do, Taylor said.

It may seem like a simple concept, but it’s the first time it’s appearing in multiple locations in southern Utah. Engineers installed the radar and painted the street in five Washington County locations, and one in Cedar city.

Each installation costs $12,000, but Taylor said it helps move toward a larger goal of zero fatalities.

“The roads are there for everyone to use,” Shanklin said. “This is just reinforcing that. Not only with the symbols on the pavement, but now our detectors on these intersections will respond equally to a car, a pedestrian, or a cyclist.”

UDPT says they continue to work with the biking community to promote safe cycling routes and could install the system at other locations in the future.