A New Missouri law allows motorcycles, bikes to sometimes run red lights

The red light will soon be streaked with shades of gray.

For most of us behind the wheel, red means stop. But if you’re riding a motorcycle or a bicycle in Missouri, it will mean stop, but only sort of.

A new Missouri law that takes effect Aug. 28 allows motorcycle and bike riders to run red lights but only if they stop first and the signal remains red for an “unreasonable time.”

Missouri will be one of eight states that have similar laws, which are intended to address occasions when motorcycles or bikes aren’t detected by traffic signal sensors in the road.

When that happens, the rider sits at an intersection when no cross traffic is coming.

“It’s very annoying, especially at this time of year when it’s getting hot and you’re sitting and you’re sitting there and you’re sitting there,” said motorcycle rider Alan Greer of Johnson County, Mo. “One minute can feel like an eternity.”

Some traffic signals are triggered by a magnetic reaction coupled with wires embedded in the pavement.

The wires are sized in such a way that they are more likely to be tripped by a car or truck, said Pete terHorst, spokesman for the American Motorcycle Association.

Some motorcycles and bikes tend not to trip the signal because they have less mass and are made with parts that aren’t attracted to a magnet.

“It’s very common for a bike to come up to a traffic signal and it doesn’t change,” said Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle Federation.

Missouri is the eighth state to pass this kind of law since 2002, the American Motorcycle Association said, and three other states considered legislation this year. The trend makes state and federal traffic safety experts uneasy because the onus is now on the riders to decide when it’s safe to proceed.

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