By Yokota Fritz
President Bush signed the Bicycle Commuter Benefits Act into law today.
Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon included a bike commuter benefit provision in HR1424, the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package that passed the house today and was signed by President Bush shortly afterward.
“We are delighted that the bicycle commuter benefits act has passed after a lengthy and persistent campaign spearheaded by Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR),” said League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke. “Bicycle commuters will now be extended similar benefits to people who take transit and drive to work – it’s an equitable and sensible incentive to encourage greater energy independence, improve air quality and health, and even help tackle climate change. Thanks to everyone who has helped reach this milestone, especially Walter Finch and Mele Williams, our government relations staff over the years who have worked tirelessly with Congressman Blumenauer, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and many others in Congress.”
The benefit -- up to $20 per month -- begins with the new year in 2009. Employers may reimburse employees, tax free, for "reasonable" expenses related to their bike commute, including equipment purchases, bike purchases, repairs, and storage if the bicycle is used as a "substantial part" of the commuter's trip to work for the month. If you already receive another commuter tax-free fringe benefit (like a Commuter Check or EcoPass), you don't qualify, so multimodal commuters are out of luck.
SEC. 211. TRANSPORTATION FRINGE BENEFIT TO BICYCLE COMMUTERS.
(a) In General- Paragraph (1) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following: ‘(D) Any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.’.
(b) Limitation on Exclusion- Paragraph (2) of section 132(f) is amended by striking ‘and’ at the end of subparagraph (A), by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (B) and inserting ‘, and’, and by adding at the end the following new subparagraph: ‘(C) the applicable annual limitation in the case of any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.’.
(c) Definitions- Paragraph (5) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘(F) DEFINITIONS RELATED TO BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT-
‘(i) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT- The term ‘qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement’ means, with respect to any calendar year, any employer reimbursement during the 15-month period beginning with the first day of such calendar year for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment. ‘(ii) APPLICABLE ANNUAL LIMITATION- The term ‘applicable annual limitation’ means, with respect to any employee for any calendar year, the product of $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during such year. ‘(iii) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING MONTH- The term ‘qualified bicycle commuting month’ means, with respect to any employee, any month during which such employee-- ‘(I) regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment, and ‘(II) does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1).’.
(d) Constructive Receipt of Benefit- Paragraph (4) of section 132(f) is amended by inserting ‘(other than a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement)’ after ‘qualified transportation fringe’.
(e) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008.
By Yokota Fritz
Happy New Year, all! Here's an overview of new laws that take effect this effect that may impact bicyclists. Arizona: A new DUI law mandates 10 days of jail time and drivers license suspension for a first time offender.
California: The legal requirement for night cyclists to use a headlight, rear reflector and side reflectors has been clarified to include cyclists on on sidewalks and paths. California law has also been updated to allow the use of reflective ankle straps or reflective shoes instead of reflective pedals. Illinois: A new three-foot passing law takes effect January 1. Motorists will be required to give at least three feet of room when passing a cyclist. New Mexico: Mandatory helmet law comes into effect for children and teens 17 years of age and younger.
Oregon: The Vulnerable Roadway Users law enhances the penalties against motorists who injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists.
By Yokota Fritz
A recent comment from CycleDog directed me to the blog of bicycle lawyer Erik Ryberg in Tuscon, Arizona. According to his Blogger profile, "Erik Ryberg is a lawyer whose caseload includes many bicycle accidents, injuries, and assaults on bicyclists in Tucson and elsewhere in Arizona. I also represent Arizona bicyclists in criminal cases and traffic infractions, usually at a very reduced rate or, if your case particularly interests me and involves bicycle advocacy, even free. If you are a cyclist and are the victim of assault or if you have been injured in an accident or arrested or cited for a violation involving a bicycle, please do not hesitate to call us. Consultations are always free!"
By Yokota Fritz
You all know the story: Minneapolis Airport Barney got upset about a local who biked home from the airport in Minneapolis. Rather than obey an unlawful order, Stephan Orsak continued biking (legally) on the airport access road. The police restrained, tased, and arrested Orsak.
Orsak's jury trial concluded last week where he was found guilty of only one of the six counts against him. Orsak plans to appeal that finding in which he is guilty of "Failure to Comply with a Lawful Order."
I believe cyclists should generally follow the rules of the road. One of my hot button issues, though, is the idea that cyclists who break the law are such a public danger that they require special enforcement attention and cyclists should be held to a higher standard than motorists.
While I'm ranting, this idea that I'm personally responsible for the actions of some idiot in San Francisco or Berkeley or NYC or London is just plain weird. CycleDog left a comment somewhere (I think at Masi Guy but I can't find it) about the secret instant cyclist internet that's built into every bike. We're jacked into it the minute we connect seat to saddle -- perhaps through a bionic USB connection? I don't automatically think my motoring friends are somehow to blame when I read of or personally witness one of the 340 traffic fatalities that occur annually in the San Francisco Bay Area, not to mention the countless insane wrecks that occur daily.
But enough ranting. Let's move on to facts and reasoned argument. Treadly and Me reports on some interesting statistics from Australia on running red lights. It turns out more than half of surveyed motorists admit to running red lights. I see it every single day on my commute in Menlo Park where Willow Road meets Bayshore Expressway. I was well into the intersection on a solid green last week, looked right and watched a truck coming at me at 50 mph with no indication that the driver intended to slow. I waited at the median as he flew by before I continued. One driver behind me even honked as I stopped, and no doubt felt like a moron she saw the reason I stopped. I probably saved her life, but I've learned to watch for light-running traffic at this intersection.
Back to Treadly, who writes:
And here is something that sticks in my craw: motorists who complain about the behavior of cyclists are expecting a higher standard of conduct from cyclists as a group than they are prepared to apply to their own group. Too often we hear the all inclusive complaint that bloody cyclists jump red lights, but when it comes to the in excess of one hundred thousand drivers who run red lights, well that’s just a few ratbag individuals. The vast majority of drivers are pure as the driven snow when it comes to red light running.
[Motorists] console themselves with the thought that...bicyclists are outlaws, and can't be permitted into civilized society. I set out to document the ridiculous nature of this claim on May 4th, during the height of the Critical Mass hatemongering by the Chronicle. On a single 30-minute walk home I photographed so many traffic violations by motorists that I ran out of storage on my camera.
For decades government policy has privileged driving and encouraged anti-social behavior by motorists. Drivers routinely roll through stop signs, drive at excessive speed, run red lights, fail to yield to pedestrians, block fire hydrants, double park in bike lanes, drive under the influence, and use horns excessively. Only a fraction of this vehicular crime is punished. Each and every year motorists kill more than 42,000 people, hospitalize hundreds of thousands more, and cause billions of dollars of property damage. Motorist endangerment is so ubiquitous that even the Vatican has issued 10 commandments for drivers. And yet the perception in the U.S. is that bicyclists are the greater miscreants?
My best advice to any bicyclist encountering such bias is to vigorously push back. Bicyclist behavior is entirely consistent with traffic behavior in general. Which transportation mode poses the greatest danger? Which mode offers the greatest social benefit?
So I arm myself with the fact and what I hope are persuasive arguments and vigorously push back. It seems like CycleDog wrote something about that also recently, but I can't find it. Help me out, Ed...
By Yokota Fritz
I decided to do a little fact checking after reading this surprising report that "the bill was recently amended to include bikes with 20-inch or larger wheels." Here's the actual text of the bill as passed by the New Jersey Assembly.
"It shall be an unlawful practice for any person to sell a bicycle [intended for use by children] with a front wheel diameter of 20 inches or less, which is equipped with a quick release wheel 2, exclusive of specialty adult bicycles."
I'm glad Trek and others are on the ball with this and I'm hopeful this won't make it out of the state Senate commerce committee, where this bill currently sits. Jersey residents should still contact your state Senators and let them know what you think of this bill. Just please be factual.
By Yokota Fritz
It's a common problem for cyclists: You pull up to a controlled intersection with a traditional loop detector, but the loop will not detect your bicycle to trigger the traffic signal. What do you do to get through the intersection?
The canonical answer among cyclists is to wait an appropriate amount of time (or not), wait for cross traffic to clear, and run the light. Supposedly, the light is considered defective; hence, running this light is considered by bicyclists to be perfectly legal.
Is running "defective lights legal, though? In the United States, is anybody aware of any provision in state vehicles codes or the Uniform Vehicle Code stating what is commonly considered fact among bicyclists?
Warren in Kansas went to the trouble of asking the local police what is legal. The police officer responded: "Bike riders are required to obey all traffic laws. I see your problem but I must tell you what the ordinances state."
I realize, of course, that police officers are not lawyers, but fighting a traffic ticket in a local court based on what many local judges consider a legal technicality is often a losing proposition.
What do the vehicle codes state about this situation? Do the ordinances address "defective" traffic lights that do not detect bicycles or motorcycles?
By Yokota Fritz
Bob Mionske -- the lawyer who writes the "Legally Speaking" column that appears in VeloNews and other cycling publications -- has written a book: Bicycling and the Law. Order by March 17 on VeloGear and get a 20% discount by using the coupon code "ESBELAW." More about this book in his latest "Legally Speaking" column.
I don't get a dime from promoting this book, but I really like Mionske's writing and what he does to inform cyclists of our rights on the road.
Cycling points of view
Bike commuter benefit now law!
It's a start, and maybe it can help shift perceptions, especially if large corporations use it to help encourage cycling.
I don't think it does much for me, being self-employed from home, since it specifies employer reimbursement for travel to and from work. I fail on both counts.
However, I do travel about town for work, usually by bicycle. What I need is to be able to write off my milage as an expense, mile by mile, just as I would in my car. As it stands, I would actually realize such a substantial tax break for driving, it would almost be worth it financially to use the car.
Not only should there be a milage write off, it should be equal that of a car. I realize the expenses are far from equal, but it would be recognition that taking one car off the road has tremendous social benefits. After all, corporations can earn carbon credits for cleaning up--I'd be happy to take credit for the carbon I keep out of the atmosphere in the form of a tax credit. Happy Trails, Ron Georg Moab
Nice door zone shot!
20 bucks a month. I'll try not to spend it all in once place. 8-)
Awesome! It's about time.
It's a baby step in the right direction. Too bad it had to get passed this way. I have to concur that $20 per month is a trifle and is highly unlikely to cause anyone to give up their car.
California's Complete Streets Act was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger on 9/30. Over time it's much more likely to encourage cycling than the Commuter Act (for Californians anyway).
Alan @ EcoVelo
Too bad it's all about miniscule tax incentives. The only way to change a culture is to quit subsidizing self destructive behavior and to properly expense services.
First steps: 1. All highways must in effect be toll roads, 2. Raise gas taxes in order to more fully fund road maintenance budgets, 3. Enforce emission standards, 4. Federal level of Complete Street legislation, and 5. Vehicle size rules on public roads or tax vehicles by weight not just book values.
The idea that Sarah Sixpack gets federal subsidies for driving a fuelish SUV to pick up her kids from school, allowed to pollute the surrounding air, destroy the roads, and lower safety standards unnecessarily is irresponsible. Jack
What we need is someone to explain exactly how we bike commuters can take advantage of this...it's only $20 a month, but hey -- a step in the right direction.
Any way to create a tutorial on how to actually DO this?
Ghost - I have a followup planned that more or less describes the existing transit benefits and how the bike commuter benefit fits into that.
This is the first time I've ever been ashamed to be a cyclist - due to crass feeding at the political trough. Subsidies for cars is no excuse for subsidies for bikes. Instead of adding the second evil, cut the car subsidies!
I'll be taking this info to my employer tomorrow morning, but I need to know, so I can prove my case on this, how are they getting reimbursed? Is the government going to reimburse them?
Second, what is a reasonable amount of commuting per month? I generally ride to work 3-5 days per week, as long as the weather plays nice, is that enough?
Mike, the specific benefit is IRS Section 132(f). If they already provide benefits under this section of the IRS code (e.g. reimbursement for parking or mass transit) you'll have an easier time, I suspect.
Twenty bucks, and that's it. The inflation clause (6) explicitly mentions only the existing two amounts, so this one won't be increasing.
This is great. I have been getting $15/MONTH for 3 years. Now its ta free. This is like a __% (fill in your taxable rate) increase. And it cost me was $34K per person in my household to bail out the suits on wall street.
Thanks for spreading the word on this. However, it would have been even nicer if the woman in the photo was wearing a helmet. It might mash her nice hair, but that would be better than having to shave it for stitches or worse.
While all this is nice, its upon the company's discretion whether it wants to comply with fringe benefitting for bike commuters. Your company's HR may say 'oh, we elected not to comply with section 123 (f)'.
I mean 132 (f)
Yep, it's all elective. Section 132 is common for large corporations, but probably not so much for smaller businesses.
I think it is ironic that the sponsor of this bill ultimately stuck to his guns and voted against the bailout...so this "sweetener" didn't even succeed in buying his vote.
I do think this is a great idea, but there is confusion over what this does. It will allow an employee to designate $20/month of their salary to go to a Transportation Reimbursement Account--as is currently possible for parking and transit at much higher levels. The employer is not going to be giving you an extra benefit; the benefit is that you can avoid paying taxes on $20/month of your salary. The government is not paying you $20, it is just not taxing $20 of your salary.
How you take advantage of this benefit, starting in 2009, is to hope that your employer already has a section 132 plan in place and that this option can be added to it. The cost to the employer is purely administrative, but you do have to get past that initial hurdle if your employer does not currently do anything like this.
I do not see where this law limits cyclists to a choice between bike, park, or transit. My understanding was that you can currently designate both transit and parking, so why not also bike?
I agree with Steve A. Subsidizing cars does not create a justification for doing the same for bikes. This issue is a flea on a cow's butt compared to other issues that need to be addressed in this country. To celebrate this subsidy is really quite sad.
Dave, slight correction -- many employers provide Section 132 benefits on top regular salary, instead of taking it out of the salary pre-tax like cafeteria plans. IRC 132 allows it to be done either way. My last three employers provided my transit benefit on top my salary, while the previous to that took the benefit from my paycheck first pretax.
As part of the defintion of "Qualified Bicycle Commuting Month," the code says "and does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1)’" (i.e. the other benefits).
So all the feds have done is subsidize commuting... or to put it another way, subsidize employment & tract housing separation.
If they were serious about reducing commuting costs (in both economic and environmental terms) then they would give substantial housing write offs to those that live close to where they work.
As it stands now, non-commuters are penalized for having the smallest commuting carbon footprint!
Anyone have any idea how to go about getting the $20 credit? My employer (federal government) provides transit checks at no cost already, so I assume it should be pretty easy. What do I need to do? What does my personnel person need to do? And is the credit only useful as reimbursement for actual expenses? For example, do I get a $13 check if I spend $13 to fix a flat and submit a receipt, or do I just get a $20 check each month?
Anon 8:40: First you need to find out if your agency will even offer that benefit for you. It's not required, even for Federal government agencies. Good luck!
That's my question as well: do I need to provide receipts/documentation for all of my biking expenes or do I simply receive an extra $20 a month? With that in mind, does my employer need to have receipts/proof on hand for all of their biking commuters? Any help would be much appreciated as my company is seriously considering implementing a program such as this for the year 2009.
Anon1:40 - receipts are unlikely. Section 132 has almost no paperwork requirements. Frankly, this section of the IRS code is wide open to fraud and abuse -- the transit checks are frequently available on Craigslist, for example.
Hey, I also commute to work via my bike. I would like to develop a mini proposal for my fortune 100 company that I work for... I am thinking this could be kind of a grass roots level of effort to promote this healthy lifestyle.
Has anyone created a little powerpoint summary of the commuter law, examples of companies that have implemented, clarifications in a FAQ section like how many days do you need to commute a month, ideas on how to implement it, etc. This would be so helpful in preparing a proposal. Tom
Tom, when you create this presentation let me know and I'll be glad to help you get the word out about it. I think you're breaking new ground here.
Video: Snowplow within inches of cyclist
...'official' snow job...
Media? I'm thinking media has been being positive towards the intrepid cyclists... Sheesh. Yes, from their perspective, it would be a lot nicer if they didn't have to worry about cyclists. It would be a lot nicer if they didn't have to worry about a *lot* of things that they're responsible for.
This is not meant as a defense of the snowplow operator, but has anyone considered the consequences if he'd swung wide around Jeff? He would have left a section of lane unplowed, and as we all know, motorists will avoid driving there. They'd have to merge at what appeared to be mid-block. The chances of a car-car collision go way up.
...ed w...a similar though has been sitting in the back of my mind also...
...w/ out defending the operator or the officials, if our intrepid cyclist, knowing the plow was coming, had shown the courtesy & good sense to stop & pull over to the right for maybe one minute, the plow would have had the opportunity to do the job properly which may then have aided both cars & bicyclists...
...just being on a bicycle does make you better or smarter unless you use your intelligence
I'm thinking that the snow plow drive r could have signaled to get the bikers attention, and give him time to get safe.
ed w: I thought the same thing. And that three foot wide snow bank would force subsequent cyclists to have to swerve out into the traffic lane. I've been in this exact situation, and it takes almost zero effort to find a spot to pull off the road and let the plow by. Just because you have a legal right to do something doesn't make it the best choice. We're talking about a snow plow driver here. Someone who's just trying to work what most of us would consider a pretty crappy job to keep the roads clear and safe for all users. How would this tool like it if someone came into his workplace and did something to keep him from getting his job done just because they have a legal right to?
I had to come back and post again. The more I think about it, the more I fell that Jeff should drop the whole thing.
I'm confident that the city, state, town or whatever, puts out an advisory telling people to stay off the roads, so they can be cleaned.
I'm thinking that Jeff should choose a better battle than this one. As much of a bike fanatic as I am, I feel Jeff was wrong.
My instinct would also be to pull over. Those plows have a lot of territory to cover in a limited time.
A school bus intentionally hit me (after laying on the horn for a block) and kept on going. No point in reporting it because the cops in my town don't care and neither does the bus company.
You all might want to check out my explainations as to why I rode the way I did that night. http://bikesafer.blogspot.com/2008/02/velonews-response.html
Jeff...I read your explanations, and while I normally defend any cyclist's right to use the roadway, in this case I believe you were wrong. Snowplows perform a public safety function by clearing the roads for all of us to use. You wouldn't think twice about yielding your space to an ambulance or police car with lights and sirens running. A snowplow is performing a similar public good, maybe not as critical as an ambulance or police car on a call, but definitely similar in that it helps to prevent crashes.
WHEN THE ROADS ARE BAD YOU SHOULDNT BE ON THE ROAD WAY IN THE FIRST PLACE IN A CAR, LET ALONE A BIKE. SO IF YOU GOT GRAZED BY A SNOWPLOW THATS YOUR ON FAULT. GET A JOB AND BUY A CAR. AND BY THE WAY YOUR TOWN CALLED THEY WANT THEIR IDIOT BACK.
it's village not town, idiot
Hey, cut him a break. He just got that brand, spankin' new WebTV setup and he was anxious to check it out.
New bicycle laws for 2008
Here in Brazil the law establishes that car must be about 5 feet away. Now, ask me if they obey?
I'm a bit perplexed by the new IL bike law. On the one hand, Springfield's heart is in the right place. But on the other, the 3 ft. rule is clearly unworkable on many of the streets here in the City of Big Shoulders.
The law also encourages bikers to travel as far right as is practical. This I think is pure idiocy since it takes us out of the center of the lane at stop lights where we can see and be seen best.
Actually, the revised Illinois law says practicable and safe. For years, the Illinois statute said as far right as practicable. The words "and safe" were added to the statute to provide exceptions and provide flexibility, according to the League of Illinois Bicyclists.
I consistently get buzzed by police officers which leads me to doubt that this law will be taken seriously.
Cops. [Huh.] What are they good for? [Absolutely nothing.] Say it again...
Blogging bicycle lawyer
Fritz, thanks for the mention. Please ping my email address. I lost your's when this laptop melted down.
MSP cyclist taser case verdict
I was hoping all would be dropped but this is good too. One word: counter-sue (or is that two words?)
Crime and perception
I'll look through the files, Fritz. I know I did an informal count of motor vehicles stopping/not stopping in front of the library one afternoon. But I won't have it until this evening, at least.
"My best advice to any bicyclist encountering such bias is to vigorously push back. Bicyclist behavior is entirely consistent with traffic behavior in general. Which transportation mode poses the greatest danger? Which mode offers the greatest social benefit?"
Hmmm... which direction to "push back?" Global ferocious enforcement for all the violators, or global ferocious focus on the benefits?
+1. Plus the effects of my errant biking are far less...
No Kidding. I bike to work every day, and it amazes me how many motorists seem to think I shouldn't be on the road, and push by with little to no room left for myself, occasionally causing me to run off the road. Our city by-law says to ride in the middle of the lane if you feel you don't have enough room. Maybe I should try that...
We've still got these folks that, I believe, in-your-face confrontation isn't going to help: this guy ... I'm not sure what will get this guy out of "roads are made for cars." I mean, otherwise sensible people honestly believed for years that "women just can't... (fill in the blank)" or believed in spontaneous generation, for that matter.
Text of the New Jersey QR Bill
BRAIN get something wrong? Nah...
I guess I should be more surprised that they didn't release this info two weeks after it happened.
The problem is that the bill language is very, very ambiguous. In two locations it seems to exclude specialty adult bicycles and then in the ammended section it seems to add them back in. Nobody at the New Jersey assembly seemed to know what the answer was. One staffer at the office of one assembly person believed that the "lawyer tabs" on the fork would be sufficient as a "secondary retention device"... but that he was totally unsure and was also seeking clarification on the point, as he'd taken countless calls about the bill that morning.
What we have is a proposed bill that is vague and ambiguous at best. The language that gets me was the part about retention devices that are "not yet commercially available". WTF?
At first read, it would seem that the bill excludes adult specialty bikes, but the language is self-contradicting as you read further along. Suffice it to say, it makes sense to call and urge folks in New Jersey to oppose the bill.
Is there a more recent version than this one or is this what they passed? http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2006/Bills/A3000/2686_R2.HTM
sorry. it cut off the url.
Read the bill again. It definitely affects adult bicycles.
Make sure you are looking at the 2nd Reprint that khal has posted.
c. (1) It shall be an unlawful practice for any person to sell a bicycle which is equipped with a quick release wheel if:
(a) the front wheel diameter is greater than 20 inches; or (regular size bicycles)
(b) it is a specialty adult bicycle with a front wheel diameter of 20 (recumbents, folders etc.) inches or less.
John Boyle Advocacy Director The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
I think John and Masiguy might be right -- I didn't have the final print of the Bill. But the final amended text makes the whole thing self-contradictory.
Did anybody notice the final amendments also describe a "secondary retention system" that seems to prefectly describe the Montague "Clix" quick release?
Bicycles and defective traffic signals
Minnesota has a law that states motorcycles can consider these lights to be "malfunctioning." I consider this applicable to bicycles as well.
Sec. 42. Minnesota Statutes 2000, section 169.06, is amended by adding a subdivision to read: Subd. 9. [AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE RELATING TO UNCHANGING TRAFFIC CONTROL SIGNAL.]
(a) A person operating a motorcycle who violates subdivision 4 by entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic-control signal against a red light has an affirmative defense to that charge if the person establishes all of the following conditions:
(1) the motorcycle has been brought to a complete stop;
(2) the traffic-control signal continues to show a red light for an unreasonable time;
(3) the traffic-control signal is apparently malfunctioning or, if programmed or engineered to change to a green light only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle, the signal has apparently failed to detect the arrival of the motorcycle; and
(4) no motor vehicle or person is approaching on the street or highway to be crossed or entered or is so far away from the intersection that it does not constitute an immediate hazard.
(b) The affirmative defense in this subdivision applies only to a violation for entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic-control signal against a red light and does not provide a defense to any other civil or criminal action.
Wisconsin passed this law last winter:
Act 466 was effective on 10-01-06. One of the changes provides that the operator of a motorcycle, moped, motor bicycle, or bicycle facing a red signal at an intersection may, after stopping for not less than 45 seconds, proceed cautiously through the intersection before the signal turns green, if no other vehicles are present at the intersection to actuate the signal and the operator reasonably believes the signal is vehicle actuated.
I make a right on red, a u-turn, and then a right turn, in the form of a shallow gesture down the road to the right. That's assuming u-turns are legal where you are.
You can also try laying your bike down on the loop: there was a parking-lot gate behind my building that wouldn't open if you set a soda can on the loop, but if you lay the soda can on its side, it had enough magnetic impact to do the trick.
Bureaucrats response to the problems created by an "elegant" transportation system are defective traffic signals? Clearly two wrongs don't make a right.
The suggestion that these electronic pads can be activated at a particular point (which should be designated) would be helpful.
There is nothing in the Uniform Vehicle Code that addresses the issue. States regulate it individually, including many that have nothing to say about it. Here are a couple of more examples. Colorado has a statute dealing with inoperative or malfunctioning signals. In Idaho, cyclists are allowed to treat stop lights as they would stop signs (i.e., stop until it's clear to go), so it doesn't legally matter if it's functioning or not.
COLORADO 42-4-612. When signals are inoperative or malfunctioning. (1) Whenever a driver approaches an intersection and faces a traffic control signal which is inoperative or which remains on steady red or steady yellow during several time cycles, the rules controlling entrance to a through street or highway from a stop street or highway, as provided under section 42-4-703, shall apply until a police officer assumes control of traffic or until normal operation is resumed. In the event that any traffic control signal at a place other than an intersection should cease to operate or should malfunction as set forth in this section, drivers may proceed through the inoperative or malfunctioning signal only with caution, as if the signal were one of flashing yellow.
IDAHO 49-720(2) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to other traffic.
Thanks for the comments, all. I learned a few things from your posts!
Book: Bicycling and the Law
Amazon has it listed for less - $12.89. And unlike VeloGear they don't charge an arm and a leg for shipping.