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

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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.

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