Bill amendment aims to stop Indy’s no-turn-on-red proposal

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A Republican state lawmaker is trying to prevent Indianapolis from adopting and enforcing no-turn-on-red regulations, just as the Democrat-controlled City-County Council is considering a measure that would prohibit such turns throughout downtown.

Indiana Sen. Aaron Freeman, a former City-County Council member, introduced an amendment Thursday that would prevent Indianapolis from adopting the proposal as an ordinance and installing no-turn-on-red signs.

Freeman’s amendment was tacked onto House Bill 1050, an omnibus motor vehicle bill, with a voice vote. The bill and the new amendment still need to be heard by the Senate another time before moving on to the House.

The local proposal was introduced April 3 by City-County Council President Vop Osili, Vice President Zach Adamson and council member Kristin Jones. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett appeared alongside the council members at a press conference in support of the proposal, which aims to quell an increasing number of pedestrian deaths in the city.

The council proposal was passed out of committee Thursday and awaits a full council vote.

In response to the state action, the three authors of the council proposal released a statement calling the amendment “unfortunate” and “disappointing.”

“Pedestrian safety is a concern we share with our constituents, and it remains a priority for us. We have worked closely with constituents, neighborhood associations, and advocacy groups, and these proposals are long overdue. Our city has lost too many pedestrians and cyclists, and it is crucial to take action to improve their safety. …

“We remain committed to keeping pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers safe, and we urge the General Assembly to not move forward with this amendment.”

Freeman, who served on the City-County Council from 2010-2016, told IBJ that the amendment was definitely in response to the council proposal.

“[The council proposal is] astronomically dumb,” Freeman said. “It’s almost like there’s a war on cars, you know, like if you take so many lanes of travel away and put up ‘no-turn-on-red’ signs, it’s almost like you’re forcing people to ride a bus service that nobody wants to ride.”

That bus service, IndyGo, has been the target of multiple bills by Freeman over the past several years. He previously argued that dedicated bus lanes for the transit agency’s bus rapid transit lines would lengthen commute times by an unbearable amount.

In 2021, Freeman introduced an amendment that would require the Indianapolis transit authority to pay for utilities to be moved during construction of the agency’s dedicated bus lanes.

The year before, Freeman authored legislation that would have penalized IndyGo for not raising enough private money by withholding income tax dollars and prohibiting further expansion of rapid transit lines.

Neither measure passed into law.

Asked by reporters Thursday why he is against local control on these issues, Freeman said, “I’m in favor of local control when they’re not stupid.”

190 intersections

The Statehouse amendment was introduced just hours before the council’s Public Works Committee was scheduled to hear and vote on the city measure. Democratic councilors expressed concern about the implications of the state action.

Brandon Herget, director of the Indianapolis Department of Public Works, told the councilors to move forward regardless.

“It is not law,  and so for the purposes of this committee, for the purpose of this department, the Department of Public Works continues to support this … because the data supports these proposals. And we’ll wait to see what plays out at the Statehouse,” Herget said.

Adamson, one of the authors of the proposal, clarified with Herget that the amendment applies only to Indianapolis. The language in the amendment includes “consolidated” cities where county and city government are combined, and Indianapolis-Marion County system is the only one of its kind in the state.

“I think it would also bear mentioning, too, that the the legislators themselves … also believe this is an issue that should be left up to the locals as well, which is why they exclude every other local organization except ours,” Adamson said. “So they wanted to leave it up to the locals and other cities to make these decisions, just not us.”

The measure would lead to the installation of signs at 190 intersections. Intersections that have turn lanes would be more likely to have slowed traffic from the shift, so 60 of those would be “most impacted,” according to city staffer Nathan Sheets.

Sheets said that most lights operate on a 90-second cycle, which should mean that drivers arriving at a light as it changes to red should only have to wait about 45 seconds until they are able to proceed.

Republican members of the committee voted against the proposal. Council Minority Leader Brian Mowery said that the proposal does not address what he believes is the root cause of crashes, distracted driving. He also called it a “blanket statement.”

Republican councilor Michael-Paul Hart said he would support “no-turn-on-red” restrictions at certain intersections, but that people might be confused about the larger change.

The measure passed 8-4 along party lines. It will be considered at the May 8 full council meeting.

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28 thoughts on “Bill amendment aims to stop Indy’s no-turn-on-red proposal

  1. I’m sorry, but I don’t know know how to put it more delicately – Aaron Freeman sounds like an idiot. He honestly thinks the no turn on red proposal is an attempt to force people to ride public transport? I mean, what in the name of Marjorie Taylor Green is this man smoking? Decisions like this need to be left to local governments, not State representatives. Freeman said, “I’m in favor of local control when they’re not stupid.” This comment shows, quite clearly, that Freeman himself is the “stupid” one.

  2. Sen. Freeman: stop.

    IBJ: no editors? “…is the only one of it’s kind in the state.” No apostrophe in “its” please. Fifth grade English.

    1. Haha, it’s funny that you actually took the time to write this out. You definitely don’t add an apostrophe to “its” in the context of this story. Maybe you didn’t make it past fifth grade English, like Mr. Freeman.

  3. What has happened to local rule? These legislators only spend a small amount of their time in Indianapolis then head out. Do they really know what is best for Indianapolis and the protection of locals and visitors. Wish they could just stick to the real problems and legislate for true needs of Indiana.

  4. Every time Freeman opens his mouth, something vile crawls out.

    Freeman may think he is standing firmly middle of the road for this issue – but I think he’ll soon find that Indiana roads are a very dangerous place to be standing – and he’s not a bollard.

    He would do well to sit this one out, maybe on one of the nice IndyGo busses.

    There is no “war on cars” – cars are dangerous, road sprawl is bankrupting our cities, and people are fed up!

  5. It’s good to see some resistance to the current fashion of throttling traffic, willy-nilly, at every opportunity. Good for Aaron Freeman. The city of Indianapolis continues to get stupider and stupider about traffic, and this latest proposal to purposely snarl traffic is yet another example.

  6. Freeman is an idiot who clearly doesn’t spend much time walking around downtown Indy. As someone who has been employed downtown for 20 plus years, I am almost run over at least once a week by someone not abiding the stoplights, signs, or crosswalk signals while walking 2-3 blocks. It is ridiculous! Let Indy control the issue as a city instead of trying to run Indy from the statehouse.

  7. The Republican party used to be all about control at the most local authority – i.e. city rather than state, state rather than federal, etc. Now they are just about control, and if they don’t control it, they legislate it and/or gerrymander it so they can sift control to themselves.
    Aaron Freeman states that the no-turn-on-red policy is “astronomically dumb” and “…stupid”. Since when is trying to protect the lives of pedestrians/citizens a dumb or stupid thing to do? Mr. Freeman exhibits his ignorance when making such statements and submitting such amendments. Bottom line: Stay out of Indianapolis’ business!

  8. What has been missing for years, is the pedestrian and bicyclists taking responsibility for themselves. They have been led to believe, and then led to be entitled, that they have full right of way and don’t have to stop, look, listen, and make intelligent decisions before crossing. Our eyes, ears, and brains are actually our own built in safety and survival tools, not more signage and assumptions that everyone else is watching out for us. We must take full responsibility for ourselves.

  9. A little common sense goes a long way…thank you Mr. Freeman for helping prevent an overreaching regulation from happening!!
    Folks this isn’t Republican/Democrat, local/state…this is a battle between bad policy and good policy. Right turn on red was an unmitigated improvement for driving in the City. It prevents needless idling time, too, for those of you concerned about vehicle emissions. If there are a few particularly dangerous intersections for pedestrians, they can be dealt with on an individual basis without wrecking the efficiency of every other location!
    How about taking that money for NRTOR signs and redirecting it to a publicity campaign on safe driving at intersections? How about increased penalties for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians causing injury. I feel the broad-brush local ordinance is a lazy way to address the issue, such as it is.

    1. Then vote for city county councilors who will fix it. They have a primary next month and an election in November.

      If only Freeman was as passionate about getting Indianapolis it’s fair share of road funding as he was telling Indianapolis what it was allowed to do. What’s astronomically dumb is fighting the best way to fix our roads – adding bus lines which come with federal funding that fixes the entire roads, plus sidewalks – while not delivering the state dollars to do the same thing.

  10. It’s always amazing (in a sad, scary kind of way) to see what topics get attention and regulation compared to what topics get ignored or defended against regulation.

  11. Ok maybe Freeman does sound silly but no turn on red is just as dumb. First it was the 25mph now no turn on red. They may as well just ban people from driving downtown. And for those of you that walk downtown and say you almost get run over- changing it to no turn on red is not going to stop that because people just don’t care anymore.

    1. You’re right. No turn on red signs won’t make pedestrians much safer downtown. You need to combine them with red light cameras so people are penalized for breaking the law. IMPD is incapable of enforcing traffic laws, so it’s time for technology to help. I’ve never seen more dangerous red light runners in any city than I have in Indianapolis. Whenever I come back to visit, it’s shocking how long I have to wait to go when a light turns green because everyone is busy running the red light.

    2. Wesley, the problem with cameras is that under existing state law all revenue generated from them would go to the state, so locals have zero incentive to invest in the technology.

  12. I thought democrats are all about climate change? Tell me how having thousands of cars sitting at stoplights, idling daily will help their cause? Do you really think this will be enforced by officers? If passed, this will go over as well as the texting/handsfree calling law.

    1. Preventing pedestrians from dying by driver’s not paying attention isn’t anti-climate. The whole movement to protect the environment and mitigate climate change is centered around keeping humans alive. You save more lives having cars idling Downtown vs pedestrians getting run over by cars. You’re right about IMPD being too incompetent to enforce this law though. Indianapolis will have to get red light cameras for any of this to work.

  13. Anything that impedes traffic downtown is bad for downtown business. The more difficult you make it to drive in downtown, the more you are discouraging people who live outside of downtown to pcome and patronize downtown restaurants. The majority of people who come downtown, still drive there. If you make it more time consuming to drive downtown, people will not switch to the bus, they just won’t come.

    1. People who feel this way never liked going Downtown to begin with. These people only come to the city for things like concerts, sports, or work. I have never met someone in Carmel who quit going Downtown because of bike or bus lanes, that enjoyed spending time there previously. Downtown Indy is one of the fastest growing areas of the State. It’s more important to focus on the growing residential base than suburban or rural visitors. People who live Downtown don’t enjoy almost being killed by cars while walking to Kroger. This proposal isn’t controversial to people who live in the neighborhood.

  14. Was Freeman bullied as a child? He is unnecessarily inflammatory in his comments and name calling. In any case, this Indy resident who drives downtown would welcome this change. I want to keep safe those using other modes of transportation and I appreciate any help I can get in doing so as numbers of pedestrians (both locals and convention visitors/tourists) and cyclists increase downtown. More modes of transportation are great for the city, and what’s good for Indianapolis is advantageous for the state as a whole. Thanks to the City Council for advancing this plan. No thanks to the Indiana Senate.

  15. So the best argument Freeman can muster is that the proposal is “dumb” and “stupid”? Typical Retrumplican hypocrisy – we believe in the sanctity of life before birth but afterwards you are on your own. Road safety be damned, we’ve got places to be!