Some stoplight sensors cause problems for motorcyclists
: I drive a motorcycle and I have problems with traffic lights, because the sensors don't pick up enough metal. So I always have to wait for a car to come behind or run the red light. Can you help do something about that?
Answer: Call the city Department of Transportation Services Traffic Signal Maintenance Yard at 564-6101.
It will send someone out to the problem intersection to tweak the sensor.
In the interim, motorcyclists should place their motorcycles atop the "saw cuts" in the road -- "the little squares cut into the pavement" -- advised Ty Fukumitsu, a traffic engineer with DTS. "That will provide maximum 'pickup,'" he said.
The problem is that motorcycles these days are being built "more and more with alloys or plastics," Fukumitsu explained. So, "it's getting to be a lot more challenging to detect the motorcycles."
The sensors in the ground are not weight-sensitive, they are metal sensitive. In fact, they're essentially big metal detectors, Fukumitsu explained.
The sensors have to determine a certain amount of metal before it triggers. So a soda can is not supposed to trigger a light change.
However, "we do adjust the sensors to pick up motorcycles," Fukumitsu said. "But there is a fine line -- if you adjust it too much, it actually will pick up cars passing in the next lane over. If you make it too sensitive, then you have a false call that will generate the other types of complaints."
Q: I ride a small motorcycle and also a bicycle (operating under the rules of a motor vehicle). What is the allowed practice for the driver when the vehicle is at an intersection that is controlled by sensor-activated light and the vehicle cannot activate the sensor to either execute a left turn or to have the light allow crossing the intersection? Is there a specific ordinance that states the proper procedure?
A: There is nothing that specifically addresses the situation in terms of allowing you to ignore the stoplight.
If it's any consolation, officers with the Honolulu Police Department's Solo Bike Division also have experienced the same problem at certain intersections, according to Honolulu police Lt. Jeffery Bruchal.
"A motorcyclist would be subject to being cited for disregarding the traffic signal if they choose to proceed against the signal," he said.
If you were stopped by a solo bike officer and explained why you disregarded the signal, the officer would probably understand "and hopefully use discretion," Bruchal said.
However, you might run into an officer who may not realize the problems motorcycles have with traffic light sensors and who might issue a citation.
At this point, until traffic engineers can improve the situation with the sensors, you would probably have to contest the citation in court if you do get ticketed, he said.
Q: If the cats disappear from the city parks, are they likely to be replaced by rats (re: Kokua Line, Oct. 2)? Hasn't this happened before in Honolulu history?
A: According to the state Department of Health, the answers are "no."
While it may be true that cats may prey upon rodents, there is no direct relationship between cat and rodent populations, explained Jerry Haruno, chief of the department's Environmental Health Services Division.
He made these points:
» Feral cats, particularly within the parks, are generally fed by people. These cats don't need to seek other sources of food, such as rodents.
» Rodents are present everywhere, particularly where food sources are readily available.
» Rodents are generally nocturnal, and may seek food sources when cats or humans are not active. Even in homes where cats are pets, rodents may still be a problem.
The upshot is that "rodent problems will occur wherever food sources are available, regardless of human or cat presence," added Health Department spokesman Bryan Cheplic.
The AARP is looking for volunteer tax counselors or leadership coordinators for its Tax-Aide Program. No previous experience is necessary and training is provided for free.
"This opportunity is great to help others and help yourself understand new tax laws," said Tony Garcia, an AARP Tax-Aide Partnership and Communications specialist.
The deadline to apply is Nov. 20.
For information, call Pat Henderson, 955-5776; Bankole Idowu, 836-3439; or 211.
AARP Tax-Aide was established in 1968 to help older people complete their tax returns.
A list of sites where free tax preparation is offered to the elderly and/or low-come taxpayers February to April is usually published in Kokua Line at the end of January.
See the Columnists
section for some past articles.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org