Freeway ramp meters aren’t perfect and can leave motorcyclists in a tough spot

 In blog, Crime News: Los Angeles Daily News

Freeway ramp meters aren’t perfect and can leave motorcyclists in a tough spot

by Jim Radcliffe

Q. I ride a motorcycle and when I get to a freeway on-ramp with a traffic meter, the traffic detector in the ground doesn’t always sense my motorcycle. I’ve held up traffic waiting for it to change, and it never does. I’ve proceeded even though the meter’s light is red, figuring the loop detector is inoperable. Should I just go? Or do I hold up traffic in hopes it will eventually change? What does California law indicate a motorcycle rider do in a situation like this?

– Luis Castillo, Riverside

A. Well, none of us are supposed to run reds, of course. …

Ramps and many city streets hold underground sensors to tell traffic signals and meters if vehicles are about.

Every on-ramp with a ramp meter has such a sensor, and sometimes a motorcycle will be off to the side of the sensor and not trip it, said Terri Kasinga, a spokeswoman for Caltrans in the Inland Empire.

Further, Honk has had readers who are motorcyclists say they have moved their bike in various positions to try and trip sensors, without luck.

Even ramp-meter lights must, at least at times, be triggered by a sensor: “It tells the light to turn green,” Kasinga said.

So what is a motorcyclist to do, if on a ramp and only getting red from the meter light?

Juan Quintero, an officer and spokesman for the California Highway Patrol based in Riverside, said wait a bit to ensure the light isn’t going to turn green. If you can motion for a car or truck to roll up beside you, carefully, that might trip the light.

If those strategies don’t work, just go, and if an officer pulls you over, explain what happened. Quintero, who rides a motorcycle off-duty, said officers citing such an offense would have given the supposed violator a good look and likely seen what happened anyway.

The cops, he said, are really after those who just blow through a red light.

Q. I recently returned from a road trip with my 25-year-old grandson to do a little sightseeing and fishing in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia. All of these states were a pleasure to travel in, especially when it came time to filling up the rental cars’ tanks with fuel. The fuel prices were consistently about half of what it costs here in good ol’ sunny SoCal. Now I ask you, Mr. Honk, why is that?

– Jack Peters, Fountain Valley

A. Honk knew taxes play into it, and he figured our strict guidelines to help the environment also do. To get the full picture, he sought out Jeffrey Spring, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California who is a specialist on the topic.

About half of the cost of our gas is tied to oil, Spring said.

“(Then) add the cost of producing the special formula of gasoline required by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to help clean the air,” Spring told Honk in an email.

Of course, that costs more, too, and overall few refineries make it. There is also the high cost of living and working in the Golden State, Spring pointed out, so gas stations here face greater expenses like all businesses.

“Finally, Californians pay higher taxes than any other state,” Spring said. “In 2010, the state excise tax was 18 cents. Today, it is 47.3 cents per gallon. … The funds are intended for a host of road, transit, pedestrian and bike projects.  Add the other state taxes and fees and the federal excise tax, and Californians are paying 80.45 cents per gallon in taxes.”

So, Spring said this week, while Californians were paying an average of $4.08 for a gallon of self-served regular fuel, the nation was averaging $2.61.

To ask Honk questions, reach him at He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online:

All credit goes to Jim Radcliffe
Originally published on

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