How to trigger a green light (on your bike)

vehicle detection at intersections

September 21, 2016 - by Amy Cloud, Communications and Outreach

In Bellingham, signals at some intersections – those with intermittent or variable traffic – may be triggered to change by vehicles, including bikes. That's because there are wires in the road to detect vehicles stopped at a light. Because bicycles have so much less metal than cars or trucks, it's important that bike-riders stop where they're most likely to be detected by the City's in-ground wiring.

Stencils, like the ones pictured, are placed on the road where bicyclists will be most easily detected.  The bicycle stencils will most likely be in the center of the lane, a few feet back from the marked crosswalk.

Guidelines for the light-triggering bicycle detection:

  • Riders should stay at the stencil until the light changes (if they leave, the light will not be triggered to change)
  • Keep in mind that some traffic signals have long cycle lengths and it may take a while to get served on a side street
  • Those traffic light cycles could be as long as two minutes (which can seem like forever, especially if there's little traffic)
  • Finally, as always, cyclists are subject to traffic regulations – it is illegal to ride through a red light.

For those of us who are visual learners, this video might make it a little easier to understand.  If you have any questions, contact Kim Brown at (360) 778-7950 or via


Media Contact

​Kim Brown, transportation options coordinator
City of Bellingham - Public Works
(360) 778-7950

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