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Traffic Signal Timing: Burnett Blvd at Rt 55, With Traffic

We ride through the intersection at the Rt 55 end of Burnett Blvd a lot, because it’s the only route between Raymond Avenue and the Dutchess Rail Trail. Previous posts have documented the signal timing, but this sequence shows the situation we’ve feared from the beginning… cross traffic not stopping because we are in the intersection with an opposing green light.

I’m towing a trailer with three bags of groceries.

The sequence numbers indicate the frame at 60 f/s.

T +0.000 = our signal just turned green:

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 - 0096 - Green

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 – 0096 – Green

T +1.250 s = the drivers ahead of us release their brakes and begin rolling:

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 - 0171 - Green start

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 – 0171 – Green start

T +2.400 s = we begin rolling:

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 - 0240 - Green rolling

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 – 0240 – Green rolling

It’s worth noting that we cannot start any earlier, unless you regard jumping the green and passing cars at an intersection as Good Practices, which we don’t.

T +7.217 s = the yellow signal goes on in our direction:

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 - 0529 - Yellow

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 – 0529 – Yellow

That’s six whole seconds from the time the cars started rolling and 4.8 s from the time we started.

Notice the white car to our right that’s stopped in the leftmost eastbound lane of Rt 55.

T +12.100 s = our signal turns red:

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 - 0822 - Red

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 – 0822 – Red

I’ve reached the middle of the intersection, Mary’s about centered on the three eastbound lanes of Rt 55.

T +13.333 s = the opposing signal turns green:

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 - 0895 - Opp Green

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 – 0895 – Opp Green

Traffic in both directions of Rt 55 can now begin moving, but the white car remains stopped; it’s almost directly behind me in the leftmost lane. Because Mary is following the curved line guide lines, she’s just entering the rightmost lane. What you can’t see is a black car approaching from behind her that didn’t have to stop.

T +20.950 s = the car in the right lane that didn’t have to stop passes me:

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 - 1353 - First car

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 – 1353 – First car

I’m 140 feet from the stop line (figured with the distance calculator):

Burnett at Rt 55 - Intersection distance

Burnett at Rt 55 – Intersection distance

At 40 mph = 60 ft/s, that car passed the stop line 2.3 s earlier, at T +18.7 s, when I was still crossing the right lane.

It’s entirely likely that the driver didn’t see either of us while approaching the intersection, because he (let’s assume a he for the sake of discussion) had a green light nearly 5 s = 300 ft before reaching the stop line. Unless he’s paying more attention than most drivers, he was intent on the signal to judge whether he must slow down; for the last 7.3 s he’s known that the intersection is clear, because nobody else should be in the intersection against his green signal.

T +24.667 s = The white car in the left lane passes Mary:

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 - 1576 - Second car

Burnett at Rt 55 2015-12-14 – 1576 – Second car

All I’m asking NYSDOT to do is lengthen the signal timing so we’re not caught in the middle of the intersection by opposing traffic with a green signal. Adding a few seconds onto the yellow and minimum cycle time doesn’t seem unreasonable, but it’s been six months since I reported the problem with no action; I’ve pinged their Bicycle & Pedestrian coordinator several times with no response.

If their engineers are “studying” the situation, it’s not producing any visible results; they haven’t asked me for any additional data.

I Am Not A Lawyer, but I think my collection of photos should provide sufficient evidence to convince a jury that NYSDOT is totally liable for any bicycling injuries at that intersection, based on the inability of cyclists to meet the signal timing. I really don’t want to find out if I’m right…

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  1. #1 by Red County Pete on 2016-01-05 - 10:37

    Making a rash assumption, but wouldn’t some politician be interested in this? Maybe a candidate who thinks it’s a bad idea to kill off potential constituents? I’m an optimist, but we voted out county commissioners who weren’t being responsive… Mercifully, ODOT has some people with brain cells, so state roads usually are tolerable.

    • #2 by Ed on 2016-01-05 - 11:02

      Well, we just got a mailer from our State Senator purporting to be interested in what we think, soooo

  2. #3 by hexley ball on 2016-01-05 - 12:46

    A while back there was a long discussion on my bike club’s mailing list about the ins and outs of notifying the city about potential road hazards, and the take-away was that one of the members who is a lawyer produced some magic language to put the city on notice.

    I wish I could remember the exact wording, but it has been too long now. I just remember that it used legal keywords to basically put on record the specific hazard in a way that left the city liable should they fail to correct the situation.

    You got any lawyer buddies (preferably cyclists) who could give advice?

    • #4 by Ed on 2016-01-05 - 13:27

      any lawyer buddies

      I never traveled in that orbit, alas.

      While pulling the post together, I found an old old old NYSDOT memo evaluating claims against them. IIRC, many / most suits were / could be dismissed because the cyclist was obviously at fault, despite the road condition and any notifications concerning hazards thereon.

      The precise use of keywords seems vital: crafting The Letter of Doom isn’t for amateurs.

      • #5 by hexley ball on 2016-01-06 - 11:43

        Ed –

        Check your mail.

  3. #6 by Vedran on 2016-01-05 - 13:30

    I know you have good reasons why you won’t use pedestrian crossing but maybe this warrants an exception… I for one wouldn’t want the only blogger I actually follow to be out of action… there’s being right and being alive to tell about it – being both is preferable, but second is orders of magnitude better than the first :)

    • #7 by tantris on 2016-01-05 - 17:29

      … I for one wouldn’t want the only blogger I actually follow to be out of action

      Second that. Dear NYSDOT, this blogger adds value to a larger community. If at all possible, he should not be run over.

    • #8 by Ed on 2016-01-05 - 17:59

      good reasons why you won’t use pedestrian crossing

      We actually use the pedestrian crossing on the way to the rail trail, because NYSDOT hasn’t provided any other way to get there; the alternatives are four- and six-lane highways. In the direction I show in the post, we’d have to:

      • Stop in the (marked) left-turn lane of Overocker Rd
      • Cross the incoming traffic lane (with no marked crosswalk)
      • Walk 150-ish feet along a gritty sidewalk
      • Poke the crossing signal button
      • Get back on the bikes
      • Cross against active traffic in both directions

      You see, here in NYSDOT land, pedestrian signals don’t actually stop traffic. They simply turn on the cute little walking man signals, but cars are free to turn left or right on top of you: walkers best be careful.

      Doing that maneuver with a loaded trailer seems more fraught with peril than just riding like the vehicles we are, even if NYSDOT pays no attention to us.

      • #9 by Vedran on 2016-01-05 - 22:44

        Hacking traffic lights controller comes to mind as another option – just think of all the Circuit Cellar articles you could spin from that :)

        • #10 by Ed on 2016-01-06 - 08:54

          NYSDOT neither marks the sensor loops nor tunes them for bicycles. With that in mind, using an active transmitter to mess with the loop signal can get you in a heap o’ trouble… [sigh]

          • #11 by Red County Pete on 2016-01-06 - 11:09

            Our county’s “big” city uses photosensors on the traffic signals to give a green to buses. They use a roof-mounted xenon strobe, approximately 100 Hz. I’ve heard of something similar for emergency vehicles, but as far as I know, the local services don’t use anything other than lights, siren and prayer airhorn for Code 3 responses.

            If this were still the usenet days, I’d ask the rec.bike crowd if anybody knew a pro-bono pitbull of a lawyer. OTOH, running over and killing 4 cyclists while searching for a cassette tape got one girl a slap on the wrist in the ’90s in San Jose. [sigh]

            • #12 by Ed on 2016-01-06 - 13:03

              a slap on the wrist

              That level of “justice” seems pretty much standard across the US. I can only hope that the cameras will provide a more-or-less objective record of events, but I really hope they never come into play.

          • #13 by tantris on 2016-01-06 - 12:28

            Haven’t tried it myself, but apparently a strong magnet ( old hard-drive) should work.
            And the “active thing” is sold already: veloloop

            [Ed: Link fixed. It’s apparently impossible to force HTML markup through the WP comment editor. Markdown may work better: square brackets around the text followed by parentheses around the linkie.]

          • #14 by Vedran on 2016-01-06 - 13:41

            NYSDOT neither marks the sensor loops nor tunes them for bicycles

            Oh, I didn’t mean that type of hacking. More it the line of hooking up to on-site PLD that controls the lights and reprogramming it with “correct” timings :)

            I think some old controllers used small pins inserted in a moving ring to set timings mechanically. If that’s what runs your lights, you wouldn’t even need a computer.

            And while you’re in there you could add radio controlled override for green light – no sense risking jail time and not milk all the perks that can be had :)

            • #15 by Ed on 2016-01-07 - 06:29

              This particular control box sits on the front lawn of the NYSDOT regional HQ, so it’d be a Mission Impossible adventure. On the other paw, a retroreflective vest and hard hat can get you pretty far, with a clipboard FTW…

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