Proposal Would Allow Bikers To Treat Some Red Lights As Stop Signs

Updated 08/03/11 – 9:04 p.m.

GENEVA, Ill. (CBS) — If Gov. Pat Quinn goes along, motorcyclists could start treating some red lights the same way as stop signs.

As CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports, motorcyclists and bicyclists in some areas will often pull up to a red light that won’t change to green.

Carey Caldwell, who sells motorcycles and has been riding for some 40 years, said the legislation would allow motorcyclists to treat a red light as a stop sign if it doesn’t change to green in a reasonable amount of time.

“Similar to a right on red. Full stop, take a look, make sure there’s no traffic and proceed safely through it,” Caldwell said.

It’s all because the cycle of stop and go lights at many intersections is regulated by weight sensors beneath the pavement. A full sized vehicle driving over the sensor will set up the next cycle.

A motorcycle is not heavy enough to do that. Unless there are bigger vehicles at the light, the driver and the big bike are forced to wait and wait.

Supporters said the real issue however, is safety for the motorcyclist. Bikers fear stopping at red lights more than anything else because they know how hard it is, at times, for drivers to see the riders and the situation leaves them vulnerable to rear-end collisions.

“The cars come up behind us, we’re always watching in our mirrors,” Caldwell said. “Two years ago in Lake Zurich … a person was killed on a motorcycle by a lady who rear-ended her at a stop light.”

The victim, Anita Zaffke, was killed as she waited at an intersection. The woman who hit her was distracted, painting her nails as he car slammed into Zaffke.

Zaffke’s son Greg said he agrees with the new law. He said that because intersections are so dangerous for riders, “anything that allows me to get through and not be a sitting duck is beneficial.”

But the proposed legislation has received a cool reception so far from law enforcement.

Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said he has “serious reservations” about the proposed law.

An Illinois State Police spokesman calls it “problematic” and a Geneva Police Commander is quoted as saying she would be “stunned” if it became law.

Gov. Pat Quinn has said he is reviewing the proposal.

Sensor-operated traffic lights are more common on suburban or rural roads. Traffic lights in the city of Chicago are timed rather than sensor-operated.

  • Bill

    Idiots making decisions.

    Sooooo…………….. We can send aircraft into space, detect small amounts of contriband at the airport, predict weather (well maybe not)……but a motorcycle on pavement?

    • John-Orlando, Florida

      Fellow motorcyclist,
      Try aiming for corner of the embedded loop in the surface of the road. This will greatly enhance the chance of the loop sensing the motorcycle’s presence. You can generally see the etchings where the loop is. Weight is not a factor, not how it works.

      • Jim

        I will have to try that one and see how it works. Thx

    • art ballfanz

      Actually you can design a system to recognize a unicycle if you want, it’s just a matter of money, and guess what nobody has any. Also, most of the lights are already in place and were purchased when such technology was not available.

    • tfb

      The people who are against this are the same idiots who fought to not allow right turns on red.
      Next please make motorcycles exempt from tolls,
      (at least in my state nj,where they doubled registration fees )

    • chod

      as long as they are organ donors, why not?

    • caligula

      be careful…if you have an opinion that’s different from Tom’s, he may call you an idiot. you know…because he’s so smart he likely drives a vehicle that requires double registration fees in his state and then complains about it…even though he chooses to do it.

    • SuchReason

      It is what it is, Bill. Get a bike, ride it for a while and then you will get it. Allowing motorcycles to go against the red light because the red light wont change for them isn’t the big of a deal. When it’s safe, the rider simple proceeds from a stop. This isn’t a license to “run” red lights as if the intersection was clear and the motorcyclist has the right of way. Relax, it’s not going to hurt.

      • Vegas Vic

        I always hated that motorcycles won’t trip the sensors, despite the riders best efforts to ride within the cut out sensor area. Seems like a reasonable solution. Most bicyclists make sure it’s clear and go anyway already.

      • Nick

        Also already legal in Oklahoma!

      • styrgwillidar

        In fact, this already exists in CA. It’s called exercising due regard under the conditions. If the light doesn’t change in a certain amount of time at a sensor equipped light AND TRAFFIC CONDITIONS PERMIT, the motorcyclist can cross the intersection exercising due regard for the conditions. This isn’t where motorcyclists get hit– that typically happens on winding roads as single vehicle mishaps.

      • Marty

        PASS the law. This will eliminate the organ donor shortage.

    • Craig O'Brien

      Traffic signals don’t work on weight. It works on a sensor loop hat detects a disturbance in a magnetic field caused by metal. Running a red light is nice but will cause more motorcycleists deaths. How stupid

    • plutosdad

      Cars sometimes don’t set the lights off either sometimes. (They are not by weight by my a metal induction loop under the ground). When this happens, car drivers wait for a break in traffic then proceed with caution. This law just makes it legal to do so.

      Or do you propose people sit there for 24, 48, or more hours, waiting for the city to come fix the broken sensor. Maybe they can get pizza delivered to their car while they sit at the broken red light. (they cannot back up and go straight, that is an illegal lane change and dangerous)

  • Jake

    All this does is legalize something that every motorcyclist, myself included, does anyway. If my bike doesn’t activate a sensor to change the light what else would I do, turn around and go back the other way or wait indefinitely for a car to show up to help me out? No, I check both ways before crossing the street like my mother taught me to do as a small child and then I go through. There’s absolutely no reason Gov. Quinn shouldn’t sign this into law.

    • DonM

      Sure, its a good law, why not make it legal for cars and trucks too?

      Stop, and if it is safe, go. Can’t see any problem with it, unless the motorcyclist doesn’t see the other motorcycle coming in accordance with the light, and the guy who should yield but doesn’t is myopic…

    • Dann D.

      Jack doesn’t know jack. Non motorcyclists are the main cause of bike accidents. tweeting from their prius’ about petty insjutices, they rear-end motorcyclists.

      This is a sensible decision and should be passed quickly.

      • Katz

        Then there is the hypocrite tweeting from her Navigator who put me in the ER with a concussion… “I didn’t see him stopped at the red light behind three other cars, even though he was in his full size pickup so I drove into him at 30MPH”…Good thing I was not on the bike.

      • Captain Incredulous

        I am not a motorcyclist, but can attest to what you are saying. I have witnessed 3 rear-end collsions in the last 10 years where a cyclist was just sitting at a red light and got clipped from behind by a motorist that was not paying attention. Sadly, one of the cyclists died right in front of me. Although, he was not wearing a helmet.

      • Brad

        Dann doesn’t know jack. The highest percentage of motorcycle accidents are single vehicle accidents. That means the motorcycle rider crashes on their own. Jake knows jack because Jake rides a bike. Pass the law, it is no big deal.

      • styrgwillidar

        Less rear-end collisions of motorcyclist in CA because we lane share. Much harder/less likely to get rear-ended when you’re sitting on the center-line, especillay between two stopped cars at a light. Think you can get that one passed?

    • John

      That comment is just stupid. A motorcyclist has the motivation and ability to ascertain the safety of making it across an intersection without getting hit. In fact, I suspect it couldn’t be safer, one is going to really pay attention when proceeding through a red light.

    • laslavic

      Really? I’ve been hit twice by motorcyles while stopped at a light and neither was reported so maybe the stats are not as complete as you would have us all believe. When they hit a car they bounce off pick up their bike pull out their cell phone make a call and soon they are off with the bike in the back of a truck. Cops don;t show up for an accident if no one was hurt and if the biker is banged up and at fault with no damage to the bumper who’s going to wait to make a report? certainly not the at fault biker. So as they say spare us the sanctamony.

    • Jason

      I have been doing the exact same thing for years too. Can’t wait forever.

    • Mike

      This law is currently in place in Minnesota and it works just fine.

      • Don

        I am a MN biker and use that law regularly. The lights don’t detect us, especially the older ones. It’s a good law.

    • Jim Turner

      Very dumb comment Jack.

    • FR

      The motorcycle or bicycle can turn right on red, then turn left and go on the street with the perpetual green and then make a right turn on perpetual green and continue on. Then report the malfunction to increase employment of sensor-fixers.

      • Dennis Cook

        Hey Bikers: Stick a hard drive magnet onto your frame near the kickstand and you will trip every light.

      • SuchReason

        It’s obvious that you don’t (haven’t) ridden a motorcycle and had to deal with this. We can handle not entering an intersection when the chances of getting hit are high. There is a thinking person at the controls.

        When it makes sense to do it, one just rides through the intersection. No big deal.

    • chod

      Just register as an organ donor and have at it! While you are at it why not move up to a ‘busa.

    • David

      To the average person yes this news is shocking but there are deices sold to make sensors aware of bikers. YOu need 3 or 4 hard drive magnets to hang from your bike so the sensors see you.

    • SuchReason

      Thank you, Jake, for stating what happens in the real world. Perhaps all drivers should be required to drive a motorcycle BEFORE driving a car or truck. A little understanding would go a long way here.

  • Bob

    This happens all the time. It’s a good bill. They don’t get to “run” a red light any more than the law allows any of us to “run” a stop sign. They have to come to a complete stop and proceed only if safe. Why is that a problem. You try sitting at a light for 10 minutes waiting for a car to show up. It sucks!

    • jack

      what light are you at that you have to wait 10 minutes for a car to come along?

      • Devin

        Do you ever drive around after 1 AM?
        Even in Charlotte, NC (~1M People) I’ve waited 10 minutes before…

  • JDC

    This is nothing new, I’ve had to do this many times myself….many places already allow motorcycles to proceed thru a red light after a complete stop and there are no other cars following behind to trip the sensors.

    • Roberta Waker

      I agree that it should be ok, but am still concerned about fatal accidents since most motorcyclists don’t wear helmets or other safety equipment. I have seen some motorcyclists go through red lights even with cars next to them, so enforcement will be interesting. Hopefully it will work, but with Illinois drivers you never know.

      • JustFollowing

        are you stupid? it’s giving a bicyclist and a motorcyclist the ability to treat a stop light like a stop sign. They still have to stop, look to see if they can safely clear the intersection, and not die.The law does not afford themselves a yield sign, a yellow light, or green light. No one by law should be forced to wait more than 1 minute at a red light, because their vehicle cannot trigger the sensor. And, after the law is passed, they should over time work to fix the sensors to pick up such vehicles and then remove the law when all such sensors have been replaced. Accidents wil only happen if you are using poor judgement. And that happens currently with the status quo. Traffic lights should not idle cars – it’s not environmentally good. They are not speed bumps or speed control devices. They are used to gate traffic at intersections that are busy in such a manner that traffic moves rapidly from all directions.

    • jack

      Sensor-operated traffic lights are more common on suburban or rural roads. Traffic lights in the city of Chicago are timed rather than sensor-operated.

  • VHenry

    It’s already a law in Wichita Ks and there doesn’t seem to be any problems stemming from it.

    • Web W.

      South Carolina passed a “2-minute” law a couple of years ago. If a motorcycle sits at a light which remains red for longer than 2 minutes, the motorcyclist may run the light IF IT IS SAFE TO DO SO! In the last two years, NOT ONE SINGLE accident has occurred because of the new law.

  • Bob

    These comments are obviously made by non motorcycle riders (except for Jack..who is just a clueless idiot). A traffic light will not change for a motorcycle and a car behind you cannot trip it either. You wind up sitting there until you figure out some alternative. Many cities, including the one I live in, have this law in effect. A seasoned biker always watches cars carefully, because people in cars are too busy singing with the radio, talking on their cell phone, texting, daydreaming or checking out the scenery to drive their cars properly. Bikers have to make sure they have a clear path at all times, including crossing the street at a red light that won’t change.

    • Bob

      And I’ll be you don’t know anyone that has been killed in a car do you J A C K!? There are FAR more auto fatalities a year than bike.

      Most bike wrecks are attributable to one of two things. An inexperienced, unsafe rider or a auto driver not paying attention. On your commute the rest of the week I challenge you to see how many drivers are talking on cells, texting, hold conversations with others in the car, checking out chicks/scenery, driving recklessly, etc, etc. Then you will see why I, as someone who commutes on a bike daily into a major city, fine your comments asinine and insulting.

    • Roberta Waker

      Exactly the reason for my comment about it working with Illinois drivers. We’re a Harley family and proud of it. So far there have been some near misses because of stupid drivers in cars, and several buddies have been killed because they don’t have much protection. Sometimes I think drivers aim for motorcyclists and all we can do is outrun them most of the time.

      • jack

        you do wear helmets and other protective gear – right?

      • Bob

        I have nearly been run over several times on the interstate from people changing lanes and never bothering to look. I install air horns on every bike I ride. When a wreck with a car means some time in a body shop for them and a body bag for you, you have to watch every thing happening on the road.

        I am sure some of the idiotic comments on here would be very comforting to those who have lost loved ones to those too stupid to safely drive a two ton missile.

        I hope you and your family stay safe and enjoy many carefree miles on your bikes.

      • Rusty

        Jack, they’re a Harley family, of course they don’t wear protective gear.

    • jack

      read my 10:20 am comment – then get back to me…

      • Bob

        I am not interested in “getting back with you”. You are a witless, bigoted a–hole that doesn’t deserve my time or effort. One can only hope you suffer what you seem to enjoy wishing on others. My guess is that you have few friends, are never wrong, and no one every wants to talk about anything with you because it is fruitless and an exercise in frustration. You are doubtlessly a kool-aid drinking obambi-ite. Go bother someone else.

      • jack

        bob – you answered me – thanks ahole

    • Jose

      Jack is the guy that drives right through the back of a motorcycle that is sitting atone of these non-responsive traffic signals. We need this law to protect lives from Jack and his ilk.

      • Yukiko

        Jose rides a bike because he isn’t smart enough to drive a car. And, he can’t spell worth a darn.

    • mongo

      By seasoned I assume you mean the ones that have tried their stupid pet tricks one too many times and gotten hurt, like weaving in and out of traffic, driving up break down lanes, running stop signs, driving up between cars stopped at lights so they can be up front when it turns, rolling up to the right of cars/trucks taking right turns, passing entire lines of cars at 90+ miles an hour, riding wheelies, failing to yield and no use of signals… I’ve seen the results

      • Andrew P.

        Wow, someone is clearly upset over a few bad apples, and taking it out on the rest of the group… BTW, if anyone on a motorcycle (myself included) rolls up on your right while you are clearly making a right turn (clearly as in you are either in a turn only lane, or your turn signal is on and functioning), then hit the moron. Just look the biker in the eye, and make your turn. I would. And if I hit them it would be their fault. That said, I have never seen such an occurrence. I have seen motorcyclists (again, myself included) split and share lanes. In CA, my state, sharing lanes is legal, but if you are in an accident the motorcyclist is automatically at fault. Are you upset that you have to sit in traffic while the motorcyclist gets to pass you?

        And while you’re sitting behind the wheel of your car, sucking gas at maybe 18-25miles per gallon, we cruise past you burning only 45-60 miles per gallon. As much as you despise motorcyclists, we’re actually being more environmentally conscience. Although if you’re from CA like me, you might actually be “greener” than others.

      • Dave

        Compare and contrast the amount of people on our roads in CA that have cars VS motorcycles.. there are a HELLUVA lot more crazy cagers than there are motorcyclists.. yes, there are some bikers out there that give the rest of us a bad name, but multiply that number by hundreds of thousands of bad drivers that give YOU a bad name… Plus what most people perceive as a motorcycle driving dangerously is, from the motorcyclists perspective everyday normal driving and trying to stay alive while the multitude if idiotic drivers try to kill us.. .but you wouldnt know anything about that since you’ve probably never ridden a motocycle before… so keep talking out your ass folks, just makes you look ignorant and foolish

  • Jason

    You people are idiots. Are you saying that if YOU where riding a motorcycle that you would just pull out without looking? “Well no, I would look. But you can’t trust other people” The government has you right where they want you. People can manage themselves. Have you ever thought that maybe it would make people MORE aware of their surroundings? How could we ever survive without the geniuses working in our government telling us when we can and cannot do things. (dripping with sarcasm)

    • David Lamb

      Well said.

    • Matt Leonhardt

      Exactly. For the naysayers, pray tell: what do you do when you arrive (in a car, or 4-wheeler of your choice) at a light with a malfunctioning sensor? Call 911? Eventually you have to think for yourself, wait for the road to clear and drive through the damn thing. Believe it or not, you don’t need a government-issued permission slip to cross the road.

    • fgs

      sure I agree 100% just keep that in mind when some dolt becomes a quad and starts loking for some lib to mandate we pay for it out of our tax money because “he can’t afford healthcare”

  • Will

    As a rider, I agree with this bill. It is a waste of fuel sitting at a light, hoping a car will come to trigger the sensor.

    I (we) are not in a hurry to die, and would treat these intersections with the utmost respect… making VERY sure nothing is going to “T” bone me when I cross the street.

    • Bill

      Speaking of Will… did you fill yours out yet?

  • Bob in Coweta

    WHAT? You want a guy on a bike to just sit at the light and wait ’til he rots for the light to turn green?

    Yes, it’ll get abused by some – those who aren’t that careful to begin with. But this is a sensible regulation which can be changed if it doesn’t work out.

    I don’t ride a cycle, but I’ve been ‘trapped’ at a red light that wouldn’t change more than once. What did I do? I looked carefully in all directions for traffic [and COPS! :) ], then [horror of horrors] – I ran the red light!

    Who here would do any differently???

  • Lee Wonnacott

    This type of law isn’t uncommon in many states. It allows the motorcyclist to determine, after a prudent period of waiting, that the sensor will not be activated and to proceed safely. It isn’t an invitation to make a rolling stop, or to simply ignore a stop light. It just allows the rider to avoid being needlessly delayed by a piece of mechanical equipment that is not calibrated to recognize the motorcycle as a vehicle waiting at the intersection.

    If you don’t ride a motorcycle you probably don’t have a clue what a problem these sensors can be.

  • DFH

    I absolutely agree with this, and I wish it would come to MA. Just this morning, I had to “run” a red light. The SAME light I HAVE to pass through every single day on my way to work. Sitting on a hot bike idling at a stupid red light while the passing traffic just cruises by is maddening. I would either have to wait until a car comes to the other side of the intersection or blow the light. I blow it 6 times out of 10. Good law. -d

    • sdgs

      Bu tyou always wait long enough to determine it’s the light not tripping and not just you feeling entitled to not wait right? ya right Mas$hole

  • Ruby Doo

    this law passed several months ago in my state and I am happy about it.
    I see a bunch of ANTI Riders here, and you have no clue.
    Motorcycles do not weigh enough to turn the light green first off….
    we must FIRST STOP, look and see if any oncoming traffic is coming, then we can go.
    Its the darn cages you have to worry about running the red lights…… Cages should be mandatory to ride a motorcycle for 30, then they will have much more respect for us 2 wheelers….

    • jack

      you don’t live in IL and yet you came all the way here to comment

      the anti rider says – call your local hospital and sign up for organ donation

      • Ruby Doo

        Already an organ donor, due to you cages that are idiots and dont see us no matter how many lights or what we have on, helmet or not…. You tend to be one that would say: I didnt see him/her!.. You already admitted that your legally blind and should not be able to drive.

      • afdsd

        Ruby Doo so who’s smarter the one riding around in the cage or the idiot putting themselves at risk on a bike?

      • Tim

        You don’t ride a bike and yet you came all the way here to flap your moron lips. Perhahps when you are out in your pos little prius I should mow your lame a$$ down with my truck. Oh ya call your local hospital and sign up for oragan donation.

  • xinunus

    Well get ready to see more people DIE on the roads in Illinois.


    Illinois is a joke!

    Everyone is leaving your state because of the liberals running the state and HIGH taxes.

  • Member548

    Several states already have this law and no carnage yet. The most dangerous thing to a motorcycle rider is a caged ape, i.e. the typical car driver.

  • don't discriminate against cars

    I have had this problem with a full sized car too. Pull forward and back up to try to ht the sensor, but the light will not change. I think itis because the incompetent people that work for the city mess around with the lights. They need to let cars run the red lights too if after a reasonable amount of time it doesn’t turn green.

  • xinunus

    IF you want to see an APE look no further than the crazy motorcycle drivers in California.

  • chuck

    In TN it is aready a law, In my city of 45,000 there are only two lights that I have come across that will not change. One is on my way home each night- beleave me I look both ways 2-3 times before I go on. If you ride a bike you will not run to many lights – trust me

  • xinunus

    Had a motorcycle driver RIDING my arsh on Highway 1 near Carmel and I was going 5 over the speed limit. He could have reached out and touched my car he was so close.

    One touch of my breaks and he would have been toast.

    ALL motorcyclists drive like maniacs in California, weaving in and out of traffic, in between cars.

    They are CRAZY!!

  • Bill

    To all above who think its a good law.
    Is this the answer?? Or maybe the sensors need to be looked at and improved. Or do you just want the option of not waiting for the light?
    I just dont want any motorcycle dents on my new car.

    • Tim

      You think you know everything but you’re an idiot. If they make the sensors too sensitive, then they will be triggered by cars in the intersecting road and the opposite lanes. You think it’s worth re-calibrating or replacing sensors at every intersection in the state of Illinois rather than allow people to use a little common sense when riding? Or are you just an anti-motorcycle bigot?

  • Joe Blow

    What’s a sensor?

  • JohnBlack

    If you were/are a motorcycle owner you would understand why this law is needed. If you get stuck at a red light that one change it gives you the option to proceed with caution legaly. It does not allow you to just drive up to any red light and drive through it. You actually have to wait at least 2 minutes before proceeding through the light as if it is a stop sign.

    • Dag Nabbit

      Seems Jack is rather fixated on everyones organs.

    • Jack Off

      It feels good

  • ancientemplar

    libs don’t obey the law anyway so why complain about a common sense application of life. If the light doesn’t change after two cycles it must be faulty Run the light. Motorcyclists don’t want to die, they’ll look much more clearly than a car driver will.
    Get a grip you lefties. Laws only apply to the other guy?

    • Devin

      Only an idiot would turn this into a bipartisan issue. Do us a favor and go pick a gun from your gun cabinet and have fun with yourself.

      • utiu

        Only an idiot would assume a lib has to be associated with any particular party – you sure is edukated there Devin give your boyfriend a kiss and stop being so sensitive

      • Richard

        Only an idiot would think he is turning it into a “bipartisan issue.” You probably meant he was turning it into a “partisan” issue. Moron.

  • Dialla Ingalis

    Motorcycle Riders are some of the safest drivers on the road, why does everyone assume that the Motorcyclist is going to take this as an opportunity to get through read lights.

    A Motorcyclist’s life is on the line, regardless of who is at fault. Motorcyclists have to not only make sure that they obey the rules of the road, they have to allow for the fact that you won’t.

    Gov. Pat Quinn is absolutely right to make this change to the law.

    Motorcyclist still need to make these turns today regardless of the law. We either risk a ticket or we need to go through a parking lot to make the turn (Much more dangerous for us).

    Reality bites folks, we got to make the turn no matter what.

    • jack

      HEY BOB – have you read this one yet ???

      Waiting for your comments

    • Devin

      Wow you’re a bigger troll than I thought.

      • Bob

        There is an old adage that one must live by to preserve ones sanity on the internet. “Don’t Feed The Trolls!!”

    • Craig

      So you’re lumping all motorcyclists in with these two idiots? That makes sense.

    • fret

      Car owners are some of the safest drivers on the road too – what a meaningless claim – must be a Dem citing opinion as some sort of fact.

    • Mikey

      Last time I checked, I NEVER saw a car going down the highway on half its wheels. I see some idiot biker (crotch rocket only) doing 80mph while on one wheel almost 2 or 3 times a week.

  • Constitution First

    The only thing the anonymous writer of this article did well was to hide their identity.A truthful headline would read: “Motorcycles will allowed to treat solid red light as a blinking red”. Another fine example of a lying headline to fowl-hook a reader.

  • Dialla Ingalis

    All these people complaining or predicting calamity on Motorcyclists obviously have never rode one on the street.

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