Cyclists have a problem with constant RED signals

Why is the first signal activated by everyone and then turned red for all trail users at the same time every day? What? I live in a lovely neighborhood of Knox County that is…

Cyclists have a problem with constant RED signals

Why is the first signal activated by everyone and then turned red for all trail users at the same time every day? What?

I live in a lovely neighborhood of Knox County that is surrounded by Wildcat Natural Area. If you live in that district, whether you’re a homeowner, a renter, a student or a business owner, you’re probably well aware of the heavy traffic that passes through the urban area.

There’s three interstates that make up the urban area — I-75, I-270 and I-275. These all compete with the more rural locals roads in order to get around. The schedule is predictable, so we are in and out of the district when we are working at our jobs. We have to head out early to get to the kids’ basketball games, or wake up at 6 a.m. to pick up our mail. We also have to be sure to get to and from Wildcat for the number of residents that walk to and from school. In the winter, there are no longer schools, so people walk in the snow. And when we do drive to and from the stores, we have to stop, wait for traffic to clear, pull up to the median in order to let the first car through, and then head onto the freeway.

With all of that traffic, I’ve always thought there should be a signal that is only activated at certain times for all drivers to know. So many times I think I’m lucky if I am able to navigate around cars in the traffic when it’s quite heavy. But one day I realized that the signal has been turned red 24/7 for my ride. For bike and foot users, that means there is nothing but red in the middle of the road at that time, and even crossing a few feet in the road is frighteningly hard. At that point, I realized that I too have to be nervous crossing my own street in order to get to work. When I began to research, I found that 1/1/9-hour parking time between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. is also affected by this protocol, as well as creating a false sense of security from the past zero-to-90/7/5/30 times. In Knox County alone, 90 percent of the traffic through the urban area uses I-275 to get out, and only 45 percent of the traffic on I-75 comes through the urban area. It’s no wonder traffic congestion is so bad in Knox County.

The rangers are charged with showing us that the new roadways are safe, and they never want to see vehicles hit each other. But then one day after all those cars hit each other, they change the signals from a four-way to a one-way and turn it on one-way north and south traffic only. Instead of only taking twenty minutes to travel to work, it took thirty minutes. For one trip, this is a 25-minute difference in time. After paying my fair share of gas, making this change is costing me too.

Ultimately, the traffic issue in Knox County should be resolved with new transportation systems that work for everyone. Currently, Wildcat’s trails are being used by the common pedestrian, bike rider and motorist to move on busy streets at a safe speed. Some safety improvements are necessary to ensure that all users on the routes are safe, and the lights should be placed in safe locations on the new design.

Jen Lattuca is an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Kentucky, and author of “When Lights Go Red: Cyclists in Knox County.”

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