Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

June 8, 2016

Orange barrels on a highway

MnDOT works with Northfield bicycle community to test traffic signal sensor

ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation is conducting a pilot study in Northfield to determine the effectiveness of a traffic signal sensor for bicycles.

The radar bicycle sensor is designed to detect when a bicycle is waiting on Highway 19 or Second Street at Highway 3 in Northfield. It will trigger a green light for through passage or a green left turn arrow.

MnDOT is working with MS Sedco, an Indianapolis company that is providing the radar bicycle sensor being used at Highway 19 and Highway 3, to ensure that bicycles trigger the signal. MnDOT’s study will provide information to agencies and communities on equipment that can be used effectively for bicycle traffic. The sensor comes at no cost to Northfield and it's the first such bicycle dedicated system used with a MnDOT traffic signal.

The signal to cross Highway 3 or turn onto it does not change until a vehicle approaches from Highway 19 or Second Street. At that time, traffic is stopped on Highway 3 and the side approaches are provided green lights for crossing or turning. Loops in the pavement detect vehicles to trigger the signal, but not all bicycles were detected. MnDOT is analyzing whether the radar detection system will trigger green lights more consistently for bicycles, which provides safe crossing and improved traffic flow. Early indications are that the system is working, but further study is needed.

The intersection of Highway 19/Second Street and Highway 3 in Northfield is a busy point in the Rice County city that provides one link between the city’s two colleges, Carleton and St. Olaf, as well as the downtown and the business community on the west side of the Cannon River.

The radar sensor is positioned on the signal arms to detect when a bicycle is waiting on Highway 19 or Second Street and then triggers the signal time for a bicycle or multiple bicycles to cross or turn onto Highway 3. The city of Northfield has painted a bicycle symbol in the left turn lane to provide guidance to bicyclists on where to position in the lane to activate the signal and will be adding the symbol to the through lane.

“Part of MnDOT's objective is to test this system to determine if we can recommend this product to other Minnesota agencies that are looking for bike detection at a traffic signal,” said Jerry Kotzenmacher, MnDOT Traffic Systems. “To give this recommendation, MnDOT must test this system for a duration of time. Users must also understand how a traffic signal works to be able to give feedback to MnDOT.”

MnDOT has worked with BikeNorthfield, a community group, to improve the signal detection equipment with bicycles using the intersection.

“We’ve been pleased with the new radar bicycle sensor,” said Eric Johnson of BikeNorthfield. “We’ve been glad to work with MnDOT to offer our feedback in making improvements for bicycles.”

MnDOT will use their input on this current project to learn more, and BikeNorthfield is helping educate its community about how the signal detection is used.

“The Northfield bicycle community has been helpful and good partners as we’ve worked on improving our roadways for bicycles,” said Nancy Klema, MnDOT District 6 traffic operations engineer. “The knowledge and experience we gain through our work with them has helped us provide information and lessons learned to others in the state.”

MnDOT urges motorists to always be attentive, drive with caution, slow down in work zones and never enter a road blocked with barriers or cones.

For real-time traffic and travel information in Minnesota, visit www.511mn.org or get the free smartphone app at Google Play or the App Store.



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