Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Green Light Countdown

so you're ready....
  (+4, -1)
(+4, -1)
  [vote for,

So, although it's obvious that the red lights are nothing more than a communist plot to foil our driving freedoms, they're everywhere. Fortunately, these red light incidents are transient and before long good old-fashioned progress takes hold, indicated by the non-communist green light.

Now, the normal strategy for dealing with red lights, is to sit there and wait them out. The problem with this, is that the amount of time is variable... much like the endurance of a communist dictatorship. So, you're unsure; do you wait out the red light by impatiently rocking backwards and forwards on the clutch in anticipation of a short-lived Räterepubliken-style red light? or, is this red light going to have longevity, like Cuba? In this situation, you may as well take the time to pop the handbrake on, re-tune the radio and go on a speculative hunt for mints that you were sure were in the glove box.... or possibly the passenger door bin.... ooh! look! a pound coin!!

So, I propose a little LED display, visible only to the first 2 or 3 cars, which counts down the time to regime-change. This will achieve two things: 1. that irritating gap between the green light and the cars actually starting to move will be trimmed by a little bit.... leading to a whole load less idling on a nationwide scale. 2. that the er... impatient chap in the BMW 3-series won't have to go to lean on his horn quite so often.... I mean, this only arises because he's taken the clutch-grinding strategy and the person up front is all Radio 4 and mints.

bs0u0155, Jul 20 2012

Countdown_20to_20Go_20signals [tatterdemalion, Jul 21 2012]

(?) Why don't we see these great countdown stoplights in U.S? http://www.geargath...n-traffic-lightswhy
Baked, full and half. [tatterdemalion, Jul 21 2012]


       I know I've been someplace where the red lights had a little strobe in the middle that began to blink as the signal change drew nigh, but I can't remember where it was. There may also have been a tone.   

       On the off chance that I'm imagining all of that, however, I'll [+] this. Very attractive idea. Bun in 3... 2... 1...
Alterother, Jul 20 2012

       Bun for correctly deducing that "traffic management" schemes are a communist plot to undermine Western enconomies, and for mentioning Radio 4.   

       Since many modern traffic signals use LEDs, it would be easy to use an addressable array and have the Amber lamp show a countdown, going to solid Amber/solid Red just before the switch to Green.
8th of 7, Jul 21 2012

       Have rollers in the road level with the wheels of the first car. That way the drivers can engage gears and rev like mad. The rollers are automatically locked when the light goes green.
pocmloc, Jul 21 2012

       [-] This would lead to an increase in traffic accidents. You're not supposed to proceed through an intersection until the light turns green AND the intersection is safe to enter. Someone fixated on watching the countdown so as to get off the line as soon as possible would likely not notice the idiot barreling down the cross street trying to beat the yellow, or even the guy still in the intersection waiting to finish his turn.   

       [Alterother], as a motorcyclist you should know better. I can only assume by way of explanation that you're unfamiliar with how to handle traffic lights safely, given that there are none in your state. Let's go riding around L.A. sometime and you'll see what I mean.
ytk, Jul 21 2012

       I know how to handle traffic lights just fine (with a light hand on the clutch and my head on a swivel), and after two days' riding around London I'm reasonably certain I could adapt to L.A. I definitely see your point, but I'm thinking along the lines of being the quickest one off the mark at the intersection (or at least having that option). I've actually had my rear wheel bumped by a car behind me because I was first in line and, craning my neck upwards, could only see _my_ light, while the impatient dickhead behind me was watching the lights on the intersecting lane and let go of his brakes when that signal turned red. Knowing exactly when the change will come means a rider can take the initiative. It might even help us get the jump on Left-turn Larry.   

       Still, I'll take that ride with you if we ever meet up (we might, my brother-in-law lives in Van Nuys). You teach me about city riding, and I'll show you the best mountain rides you never knew existed.
Alterother, Jul 21 2012

       Hey [ytk], just make sure you tick the "No Cervidae" box on the form …
8th of 7, Jul 21 2012

       [Alterother] is your bike right-hand drive?
tatterdemalion, Jul 21 2012

       Not such a problem here, [8th]. In this town you're far more likely to be killed by a Mercedes than a moose.
ytk, Jul 21 2012

       // [Alterother] is your bike right-hand drive? //   

       Umm... No. As far as I'm aware, with the exception of the aptly-named 'suicide shifter', the clutch lever is always on the left and the throttle on the right.   

       This has led to an interesting phenomena, actually: motorcycle ridership brings with it a kind of very loose fraternity. Riders do not have to know, approve of, or like one another, but we do all acknowledge and, to a certain extent, look out for one another. This is most readily observable in the way we greet each other in passing.   

       In the US, the greeting is a special wave; the left hand leaves the handlebars and is extended downward at an angle roughly 45-55 degrees to the road, fingers held together like a blade, palm facing the oncoming rider. If the encounter occurs when the clutch is engaged, simply raising the middle and index fingers of the left hand is acceptable.   

       The universal greeting is very different in the UK, however, since riders pass each other on the right and therefore waving would mean removing one's hand from the throttle (inadvisable under the best of conditions). Instead, British bikers nod to each other in passing, but since it is difficult to discern a traditional forward nod from somebody wearing a helmet, the gesture is instead a funny kind of sideways head-jerk. To the uninformed it might look like some form of palsy. It took us a couple of days to catch on, and for the rest of the trip we practiced in the mirror at night to make sure we were doing it properly--didn't want to offend, after all.   

       The real problem, of course, was when we came home and accidentally did the sideways-head-jerk at the riders here.   

       [ytk], if you ever go riding in the countryside and meet a rider coming around a bend who has his/her hand raised, thumb touching the helmet and fingers splayed, they're not making fun of you: it means 'moose/deer/other large animal ahead'. I thought it was a local thing until I met some riders from the Midwest who told me it's common with rural riders all over the country.
Alterother, Jul 21 2012

       Bikes have the huge advantage of being independant of the road convention they are used on.   

       There are variants; some older bikes have interesting control layouts (lever shift on left of tank combine with left foot clutch; right thumb quadrant throttles; Right foot clutch with left foot gearshift.   

       Dozens of different configurations were tried in the early part of the last century, as manufacturers and racing riders scrambled for performance and market share, or that elusive racing 'edge'.   

       The modern bike control layout is a sort of de-facto consensus, but given the layout of many bikes it would be relatively easy to swap many controls around- even the gearshift.   

       Using hydraulic linkages, it would be quite possible to implement:   

       Up/down gearshift on left twistgrip, throttle on right foot, clutch on left foot, front brake on right hand, rear brake on left.   

       Even easier on some bikes would be:   

       Gearshift on tank, clutch on right foot, rear brake on left hand lever, left boot free for kicking out at passing cats.
8th of 7, Jul 21 2012

       London is an interesting place - You rode there? Brave man. I noted that everyone had cool gear - a rider told me being improperly clad led to police harassment.
normzone, Jul 21 2012

       In the UK, a hat meeting safety specifications is mandatory. Everything else is optional, but police motorcyclists will often accost those riding without gloves and in a T-shirt, shorts and trainers, and explain that no matter how "cool" it may look and how cool it feels on a hot day, even parting company from a lightweight scooter at low speed can result in an instantaeous, involuntary and excruciatingly painful session of extreme body modificaTion.   

       SSince the traffic is often dense and slow- moving, the biggest dangers to bikers in London tend to be kamikaze pedestrians, buses, and inconsiderately-parked buildings.
8th of 7, Jul 21 2012

       It wasn't so much bravery as necessity; we flew into Heathrow and the bike rental place was right in the middle of the city, as were the destinations for our first day of touristing. But I'll still take credit for the bravery, thank you. It wasn't just riding in London; it was riding in London with very little knowledge of British motorcycle etiquette, with my wife and 100 lbs of gear on the back of a bike that was 150 lbs heavier, about 18" longer, and with 300cc more displacement than anything I'd ever ridden before.   

       We always ride with full gear (minus those silly leather chaps): helmet, jacket, hard-knuckled gloves, high-ankle boots, and long pants, usually denim. Always. The only time the police in England hassled us was when we stopped under an overpass to don our rain gear, which we found very ironic; in the UK, motorcyclists can split lanes, ride on either shoulder, and use bus/taxi lanes--all of which are illegal in most of the US--but they can't shelter under bridges, which is common practice here.
Alterother, Jul 21 2012

       //This is most readily observable in the way we greet each other in passing.//   

       True, but you have to be careful. Nothing is more embarrassing than waving at a fellow motorcyclist and then realizing as he passes that he's actually riding a /scooter/.   

       Interestingly, sport bike riders will usually wave to Harleys, but only seem to get a wave back maybe a quarter of the time.   

       //hand raised, thumb touching the helmet and fingers splayed//   

       Thanks for the tip. I'm pretty sure I would have understood such a gesture, though. The tales of suddenly materializing deer strike fear into the hearts of even the most city-bound urban riders. That said, L.A. is a great place to ride. Plenty of lovely canyon roads not too far outside the city, and you can lane-split during rush hour traffic.
ytk, Jul 21 2012

       // [Alterother] is your bike right-hand drive? // Umm... No. As far as I'm aware, with the exception of the aptly-named 'suicide shifter', the clutch lever is always on the left and the throttle on the right.   

       My question was not as facetious as it seemed. I understand the difference lies in which direction the head lamp is preferentially tilted.
tatterdemalion, Jul 21 2012

       //long pants, usually denim//   

       Just as long as you don't think denim provides any protection from road rash whatsoever. Having gone down and skidded 30 feet in neck to ankle Kevlar, I can tell you that the only thing denim would do is soak up the blood a bit where it hadn't worn through after about a yard across the asphalt.
ytk, Jul 21 2012

       [tatD], only some bikes have aimed headlights, but in those that do it is often simple to swap the orientation. I did notice that our rental in England had the lights aimed to the right. Actually, I thought your question was serious, so I tried to give it a serious answer before I went rambling...   

       [ytk], I'd heard that lane-splitting was legal in L.A. Just there, or in the rest of CA too?   

       Your city-slicker's fear of wildlife is not unfounded. I may be famous both locally and here at HB for slamming my KLR into a deer at 45mph, but that horror story eclipses the dozens that I've avoided. The first 'stoppie' I ever did was completely unintentional; a moose stepped out in front of me one evening and I braked so hard that I rode the front wheel for about ten or twelve yards (the next day I went to the sand pit with a dirtbike and practiced the maneuver in case I ever have to do it again). Another time I actually dragged my knee swerving to avoid a deer that suddenly reversed direction in the middle of the road (and no, I don't think denim prevents roadrash; in fact, I can testify that it does not). For all that, however, I'm still more nervous sitting at a crowded 4-way, waiting for somebody to do something stupid when the lights change.
Alterother, Jul 21 2012

       Lane splitting is legal throughout California. Frankly, it amazes me that it's not anywhere else in the country. I was rear ended (in my car) on the freeway the other day, in stop and go traffic. I was unharmed, and the car only suffered a little damage, but the thought of what would have happened were I riding a motorcycle terrified me. Then it occurred to me that, if I were on a bike, I wouldn't have been rear-ended—I'd be safely between two lanes of stopped (or nearly stopped) cars. Some riders tend to do it irresponsibly, and that's when it can be dangerous, but when traffic is stopped between lanes is probably the safest place to be.   

       Anyway, if you ever make it to L.A. drop me a line. Give me some advance warning, though—I haven't gone riding in a couple of years and I'll need to get the bike(s) out of mothballs.
ytk, Jul 21 2012

       That's circular reasoning. “The reason lane splitting should be illegal is because it's illegal.” So, change the laws and the way drivers are educated. There's no reason it can't work in other states besides California, given that it works just fine in numerous other countries that permit it.   

       As for your experience in Atlanta, well, riding like a dumbass will get you killed no matter how or where you do it. Going 20-30 mph in stopped traffic where people are getting out of their cars on the freeway and not wearing a helmet both pretty much qualify you as a grade-A dumbass on their own. Doing both simultaneously reaches a whole new level of stupid.
ytk, Jul 22 2012


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