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Ask Our Lawyer - July 2003

Q: I'm frustrated. I have ridden a bike for years, and for years I've been riding through intersections with traffic lights. Recently, my city has been adding some sort of detectors to the lights on most of the side streets that make the light change only when there's a vehicle waiting at the light. For some reason, my motorcycle doesn't trip the detectors, and I have to wait a very long time at these intersections. What can I do?

A: Unless you live in Tennessee or Minnesota, not much. A significant number of intersections are now controlled by detectors that only cycle the light when they detect the presence of a vechile. The most common form of vehicle detection is a magnetic induction loop connected to a detector. This is simply a wire loop embedded into the pavement of each lane at the stop bar that extends back 20, 40 or 60 feet. When a vehicle is over the loop, the signal for that movement is "triggered" or called. Once a green light appears, the signal will stay green as long as it needs to, up to a set maximum amount of time. If only one or two vehicles are present then the green may last for 6 seconds or so. If 15 vehicles are present then it may stay green for 30 seconds or so. If no vehicles are present, the signal will not cycle to that movement. These loops work by detecting the presence of ferrous metal over the loop. The more iron or steel there is in the vehicle, the more likely the detector is to detect the vehicle.

Unfortunately, most motorcycles do not have enough steel in them to trigger the detectors. In effect, the stop light doesn't know you are there and doesn't cycle for you. You either have to wait for a car to pull up with you, wait for the timing cycle to complete so you get a green light, or turn around and find a different intersection. None of these are very good solutions.

One creative solution was recently enacted by the Tennessee state legislature. Beginning July 1, Tennessee motorcyclists can legally run red lights, if they stop first and exercise due care. At least one other state, Minnesota, has passed a similar law, which acted as the model for Tennessee's statute. Other states and cities have been replacing the induction loop detectors with new technology that uses microwaves or cameras to detect the presence of vehicles. Most of these newer methods would detect motorcycles.

Of course, new detectors would cost more money, something that most cities and counties aren't willing to do these days. So the next time you get stopped by a really long light, realize that the light won't change until the detector does.

Remembering Farmer

John "Farmer" Eggers is the namesake of the most prestigious award given by the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.
Farmer died ten years ago this spring. To us old-timers, it seems like yesterday. A lot of the younger members of motorcycle rights organizations never had the privilege of knowing Farmer. This is the reason I am remembering Farmer in this article.
I knew Farmer; I rode with Farmer; Farmer was a friend of mine. His infectious laugh was unforgettable. His organizational style and his people skills helped create ABATE of Ohio and the MRF.
I was at Farmer's funeral. I have rarely been to a funeral service where so many people were so moved. I estimate that our motorcycle escort for Farmer was over 15 miles long. On this tenth anniversary, I would like for all of us to remember one of our legends and privately express our gratitude for his service to our cause.
Michael Farabaugh, a long time friend of Farmer's, said it best: "once a friend of Farmer, always a friend of Farmer." Mike should know. When the Farabaugh family tragically lost their home in a fire, Farmer left his job and spent several days with the Farabaughs until they got things squared away. This was typical of Farmer. There are countless stories of Farmer's acts of leadership mixed with kindness.
Yes, there is a good reason why the most prestigious award is named after Farmer. Let us never forget.

A job well done!

Congratulations to Mike and Debbie Farabaugh and the Miracle Ride committee. Through the efforts of hundreds of bikers, $250,000.00 was raised June 1, 2003 for the Riley Hospital for Children. I used to believe that these efforts diluted our lobbying efforts for motorcyclists' rights. No longer.
That revelation occurred when I realized that our activities were being honored in Springfield, Indianapolis, and Columbus. Our supporters realize what we knew all along - bikers are one of the kindest and most generous of people in our country. And our adversaries respect us for being one of the most dedicated and hardworking rights groups in the country.

Ride safe and free,
Rod Taylor
Abate Legal Services

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com.