Location: Oklahoma

New Oklahoma Law Rescues Bicyclists From Defective Traffic Lights

Some positive news from the Oklahoma Bicycling Coalition:

On May 3 the Governor signed a bill allowing bicyclists and motorcyclists to proceed through an intersection if they are trapped at a defective traffic signal.

Senate Bill 1329 amends Oklahoma State Statute § 47-11-202 covering traffic control signals and how drivers and pedestrians are required to behave when encountering them.

Significantly the bill refers to bicyclists as drivers. Oklahoma law considers bicycles vehicles, and bicyclists drivers. As drivers of vehicles we are expected to drive our bikes accordingly.

SB1329 states:

d. “… the driver of a motorcycle or bicycle facing any steady red signal may cautiously proceed through the intersection only if:

(1) the … bicycle has been brought to a complete stop …
(2) the traffic control signal is programmed … to change to a green signal only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle and has failed to detect the arrival of the … bicycle …
(3) no motor vehicle or person is approaching on the roadway to be crossed … ”

The bill does contain a few “gotchas”. The light has to be defective. Typically this will be the case with loop detectors. If the light is on a timer it is not considered defective. If the bicyclist is hit while crossing the intersection against a red light the driver who struck the bicyclist will not be considered negligent or at fault. Finally if a pedestrian is crossing the street, they have the right-of-way.

In reality, this bill legalizes behavior bicyclists have frequently practiced in the face of a stuck red light. Using caution and common sense we can now continue on our way both safely and legally.

The amendments to State Statute will be effective November 1, 2010.

See also: Full text of bill

Motorcyclist advocacy organization ABATE of Oklahoma covers the bill from their perspective, celebrating this vital safety improvement, but also predicting a public backlash: “Public criticism will follow when news of this bill is made public. You will see headlines that read: New Motorcycle Law Allows Motorcyclists to Run Red Lights!

Missouri passed a similar law in 2009: New law allows bicyclists to proceed through malfunctioning red lights

Apparently, Arkansas and Colorado have similar statues, but I wasn’t able to find specific references.

Kansas doesn’t have such a law, so if you’re waiting at a traffic signal that doesn’t recognize your presence, you have a few options:

  • Wait for a car to come along and trip the signal for you — could be a very long wait…
  • Get off your bike, walk onto the sidewalk, press the pedestrian crossing button, walk the bike back onto the road, then wait for the light to change — not all intersections have pedestrian crossing buttons
  • Make a right turn on red, ride up the street a little way, make a U-turn (if safe), and approach the light from another direction — only works if there’s not much traffic, and in some locales, U-turns are not allowed
  • Try to position your bicycle so that it trips the vehicle sensor (WikiHow has some suggested techniques) — doesn’t work with many bicycle frames

None of these options are great…

How do you handle this situation?

About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

One response to “New Oklahoma Law Rescues Bicyclists From Defective Traffic Lights”

  1. Randy says:

    Oops, looks like the new Oklahoma law doesn’t include bicycles after all:

    UPDATED/CORRECTED: New Law Regarding Defective Red Lights Ignores Bicyclists

    UPDATED & CORRECTED – On May 3 the Governor signed Senate Bill 1329 bill allowing only motorcyclists to proceed through an intersection if they encounter a defective traffic signal.

    The original draft referred to bicyclists as drivers. Oklahoma law considers bicycles vehicles. As drivers of vehicles we are expected to drive our bikes accordingly. The version of the bill signed into law removed all references to bicyclists.
    If the bill had been passed in its original form it would have legalized behavior bicyclists are frequently required to practice in the face of a stuck red light.

    Click here to download the original text of the bill.

    Click here to download the version signed into law.

    The OBC will explore options to return the law to its original intent.