Location: Kansas

‘Dead Red’ Bill May Offer Relief for Kansas Cyclists Stuck at Malfunctioning Red Lights

red lightIn addition to the proposed 3-Foot Passing Bill that has been introduced into the Kansas legislature, there is another bill of interest making it’s way through the Committee on Transportation.

House Bill 2058 (HB2058), “Establishing conditions when motorcylists may proceed through red traffic signals”, was introduced on January 24th, and was recommended by the Committee on Transportation on February 15th.

Originally, the bill only covered motorcyclists, but was amended in committee to include bicyclists as well.

Here’s the proposed statute:

The driver of a motorcycle or a person riding a bicycle facing any steady red signal, which fails to change to a green light within a reasonable period of time because of a signal malfunction or because the signal has failed to detect the arrival of the motorcycle or bicycle because of its size or weight, shall have the right to proceed subject to the rules stated herein. After stopping, the driver or rider shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time such driver or rider is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways. Such motorcycle or bicycle traffic shall yield the rightof-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection. [see full bill]

Here’s some coverage of the committee hearing from the Wichita Eagle:

Rider Tim Farr said that late at night or when there’s a lull in traffic, “you either sit there forever or you just run the light. There’s no way around it.”

The Dead Red bill would change state law to allow cyclists to ride through a red light after waiting a reasonable length of time for the light to change, provided they proceed in a safe manner.

“This is a very common issue we are facing and it is statewide, not just in Topeka,” said rider Tony McClelland.

No opponents testified in person at the hearing, but the riders have some powerful adversaries. The Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police and the Kansas Peace Officers’ Association filed written testimony opposing the bill.

“Adding this provision to the red light statute will create a debate in court when a citation is issued on a stop and go red light violation, even when ultimately the signal cycles as designed,” said the testimony filed by Ed Klumpp, legislative committee chair for the police chiefs and legislative liaison for the peace officers. “What is a reasonable time period will be debatable as well.”

The police organizations said it should be left to the officers.

“There are many issues in traffic enforcement requiring officer discretion and the consideration of unusual circumstances,” Klumpp wrote. “We should not attempt to codify all of these deviations. We strongly urge you not to move this bill forward.”

The motorcyclists said officer discretion is well and good, but inconsistent.

Ron Vauter of Salina said his experience is that out of 10 officers, eight would probably be OK with cyclists driving through frozen lights, while two would go by the book.

“Then you’ve got to go to court and prove you’re innocent,” he said.

Members of the committee seemed sympathetic to the cyclists’ plight.

Additional coverage:

Judging by the comments on these articles, a lot of people have strong feelings about this issue. Drivers seem miffed that cyclists might “get away with” something that they’d be ticketed for.

That’s a legitimate concern, but it’s doubtful that these drivers have ever sat at a red light that doesn’t work for them. It happens to motorcyclists on a regular basis, and to bicyclists even more often.

When you’re trying to do your best to follow the letter of the law, it’s infuriating to be foiled by a malfunctioning traffic signal, whether that’s due to a design defect, poor installation, or mis-adjustment.

Short of allocating a huge sum of money to all the municipalities in the state to fix their defective equipment, this bill is a common-sense approach to dealing with the problem.

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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]

7 responses to “‘Dead Red’ Bill May Offer Relief for Kansas Cyclists Stuck at Malfunctioning Red Lights”

  1. Ryan says:

    “Then you’ve got to go to court and prove you’re innocent,” he said.

    You mean, you would have to go to court to prove that I am guilty.

  2. Scott says:

    “You mean, you would have to go to court to prove that I am guilty.”

    That’s what you’d hope. Unfortunately, “guilty until proven innocent” is often how it works for minority groups.

  3. Jerry says:

    If you drop your kickstand, sometimes the extra magnetic ‘mass’ of the steel kickstand will trigger the light change circuit.

  4. Jared says:

    Federal law already provides for this. Any traffic light that is not functioning shall be treated as a stop sign. If you get ticketed, go to court. Ask if the engineer is there to prove that the light detects legal traffic–which includes a bicycle. They will either prove it, or a reasonable judge should let you go.

  5. bryant says:

    I sat at a red light for about 5 minutes got off with bike still running and went to press the pedestrians button and read a missing persons paper then pressed the button got back on my bike and sat there for about 5 more minutes it was 103 degrees and with a helmit and the heat off the ground can allmost cause a heat stroke I personaly think I would not abuse this law if there is on coming traffic at the light I know they will trip if or if someone is next to me in a vehicle they will most likly trip it so no reason to run the read light its only when there would not be trafic beside or infront of you then there is no one to trip it and if I’m sitting more than 5 minutes in 90 or above weather I will go but I wouldn’t treat it as a 4 way stop every chance I get but there will be some that will and that is why the officers can help enforce it the right way for us that way those of us that are looking out for our safety witch is why we wear gear witch can increase a heat stok if ur sitting on a black top that’s over a hundred please people if it gets passed don’t ruine it for those of us who need it also I have over $1,000 in gear u realy think I’m not gonna use extreme cause when running a red light

  6. Randy Rasa says:

    The Dead Red law was passed by the legislature, signed by the governor, and went into effect in Kansas on July 1st, 2011, along with a 3-foot passing law: http://www.kansascyclist.com/news/2011/07/3-foot-passing-its-the-law-in-kansas/

    The law allows bicyclists and motorcyclists to proceed through a traffic signal that does not recognize their presence “within a reasonable period of time”.