How to Activate Traffic Lights on a Bike

Most traffic signals where we ride are “demand-actuated” – they only trip when the detect a vehicle. The good news is that you can activate these lights on a bike at most intersections. Here’s how:

At the intersections, look for a loop of wire buried in the pavement. This is the “inductive-loop traffic detector” that detects when a vehicle is there. It can sense most conductive metals – and even on carbon fiber bikes, the wheels are good enough to be detected. The challenge is finding the “sweet spot” to position your bike on in order to trip the detector. 

If you see three lines cut into the road (or a rectangle shape with a line down the centre), simply position both wheels along that centre line. This will trip the detector and change the light. This is the most-common style of loop I see in Halton Region, which is good, as it’s the easiest to trip. In the photo below, the red line indicates where to stop your bike. If there are only two lines (or a rectangle with no centre line), try positioning your bike along either the left or right line – it might take a bit more work on this style of loop detector to trip it. If there you can’t see the outline of the loop (such as if the road was repaved) you’ll just have to guess where the loop might be, press the crosswalk button, or contact the town/city/region to have them mark the outline.

Inductive Loop