Friday, December 16, 2011

a light hand on the trigger

Many bay area traffic lights are designed to trigger (turn green, maybe after a delay) only when there is a car or bicycle waiting to cross.  Occasionally, these lights lose their mind.

Contraption Captain and I were pedaling hard towards El Camino Real, a busy thorough fare especially during rush hour.  Regrettably the light turned red before we could cross and so we settled down in the bicycle lane to talk and wait for our turn to come around. 

To our left was one lane of cars waiting to cross the street.  To our right was a short length of lane for cars turning right.  Behind us was a single car lane.   C and I are talking when he suddenly says, "hey, did the light skip us?"  I remind him that we just missed the light and that's why the wait is so long. 

We go back to talking and I watch the traffic cycle from cars turning to cars straight and then oncoming traffic plus turning cars and then...  no green light for our direction.  We *are* being skipped. 

I look behind us.  A long row of cars has already piled up.  Some of them are trying to turn around but they don't have enough room.  Others have pulled into the skinny bike lane in a vain attempt to drive up on the side and make a right hand turn.  It's vain because there is no way that those Ford F150s and Range Rovers and Pilots and Tahoes are ever going to be able to crush themselves into a bicycle lane that can accomodate two bicycles if they're both a little careful.   Still, the SUVs sit there, or at least as much of themselves as they can get into the bike lane.  I'm suddenly reminded of sick or senile cats who start pooping next to the litter box instead of inside it.  They just can't seem to help themselves.

I look forward again at the unyielding red light.  To my left is a car that is about one car length back from the white line.  It is possible (but odd) that he is too far back to trigger the green light.  We look at the driver hopefully and gesture that he could pull forward.

The driver is not enjoying being at the red light either.  He does not pull over though.  He gestures back at us, pointing urgently.  It takes us a moment but then light dawns.  The walk signal!  To the walk signal!!  Contaption Captain hops off his bike and puts the kickstand down.  The cars watch mutely but hopefully as he gets on the sidewalk and then punches the walk button.  He rejoins me.  The light turns green.  We head on to work. 

ps.  to those cars.  you're welcome. 

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