Council OKs framework for no-turn-on-red restrictions after attempted block by state

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A partial map of pedestrian safety zones created by Monday’s amendment. The downtown area is highlighted in red, while the newly-created pedestrian safety zones are in blue.

In a move to quell Indianapolis’ increasing number of pedestrian deaths, the Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday approved a measure giving the Department of Public Works the authority to ban turns on red lights in certain areas of the city despite state efforts to block the ordinance.

The council approved the proposal in a 20-5 vote, with all Democrats and one independent voting in favor.

The proposal authored by downtown councilors President Vop Osili, Vice President Zach Adamson and Kristin Jones was amended Monday to identify “pedestrian safety priority areas” and create a process intended to insulate the city from a state Republican lawmaker’s move to ban blanket restrictions on right turns in areas of Indianapolis.

Under the measure, Department of Public Works engineers and the fatal crash review team are authorized to restrict right turns throughout downtown, Broad Ripple, and other specified areas at intersections identified as dangerous in past city studies. Among them is East Washington Street, the corridor where a driver struck and killed seven-year-old Hannah Crutchfield in Sept. 2021.

Once turn-on-red restrictions are recommended, the Department of Public Works will be required to post an online notice 30 days prior to restricting the intersection. After that, the department will post no-turn-on-red signs.

The amendment was crafted in part to create a shield from state legislation targeting the Indianapolis ordinance.

In April, state Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, persuaded the Legislature to pass a state law banning Indianapolis from passing blanket bans on right turns in certain areas. Freeman called such efforts by the city a “war on cars” and said he was in favor of local control only “when they’re not stupid.”

The council pulled its proposed traffic ordinance last month, thinking the legislation was already in effect. Multiple lawyers and the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency later told the three co-sponsors that the law did not take effect until July 1, giving the council time to re-draft and pass the ordinance.

“It’s rather sad to have to jump through these kinds of hoops and loops for a city to be able to do what every other city in the state of Indiana is obligated to do in the pursuit of protecting pedestrians and their community,” Adamson said last week.

Freeman, an attorney and former city-county councilor, has told IBJ he would work to persuade the Legislature to retrocacively ban the city’s ordinance.

“God bless them, they can do what they want,” Freeman said. “Then obviously the Legislature can come back next year and do what we want… I’m firm in my position. This is an unnecessary blanket policy—it’s just crazy.”

Democratic councilor Ali Brown said the city’s ordinance is worth any inconvenience it might cause Freeman or other drivers.

“We’re in the middle of a pedestrian safety crisis, and we have to do what we can to protect people,” Brown told IBJ. “And the inconvenience that Aaron Freeman is whining about, that couple of seconds to me is worth saving someone’s life.”

Most lights operate on on a 90-second cycle, said city staffer Nathan Sheets in an April committee meeting. This 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, he said.

The Republican councilors who voted against the proposal were Brian Mowery, Michael Dilk, Michael-Paul Hart, Paul Annee, and Joshua Bain.

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14 thoughts on “Council OKs framework for no-turn-on-red restrictions after attempted block by state

  1. Don’t confuse Freeman with facts when all he cares about is his feelings.

    The city should tear all the recently installed roundabouts in his district out and let his constituents go back to being stuck in impossible traffic jams each and every evening during rush hour when they try to travel east/west.

  2. “Quell the number of increasing pedestrian deaths”
    How many deaths each year?
    How many caused by turn on red?

    Let’s get the facts before you start changing laws.

    1. This is a good question – how many are caused by turn on red, versus people turning when the light is green. When the light is red, drivers tend to slow to a near stop to make sure nobody is driving the other direction, so they are more likely to see a pedestrian. It is when cars have a green light and are at a higher speed turning that they tend to pay less attention to pedestrians. It is also when the light is green and pedestrians have the crosswalk signal that pedestrians are also less likely to be watching for cars.

      Using the same logic, I wonder if the numbers would actually show that cars should be banned from turning right on green rather than red….

  3. It is really nice that the state legislature has solved the brain drain, horrible road paving (aka road herpes), gun violence, corporate corruption, and set the state to being a leader in ecological-economics, that they can focus on something like public safety in a square mile of the state where most drivers DON’T pay attention to what’s going on around them..

  4. Hogsett and his council cronies love to spend thousands, if not millions, of dollars on legal exercises that any poly sci freshman knows they will lose. But it makes them feel like they are doing something, and feelings appear to be all that matters.

    1. Lawyers working on behalf of the City seem to disagree with you. I have more faith in them than any poly sci major. Sen Freeman only passes laws restricting what Indianapolis can do based on his desire to “own the libs”. If you’re going to criticize anyone for pushing legislation based on feelings, Freeman should be your target.

    2. Freeman went off about blanket bans.

      The city of Indianapolis listened. What’s being implemented definitely meets the spirit of what he was against – the city of Indianapolis isn’t doing blanket bans, they’re using data and taking public feedback before implementing any changes.

      Unfortunately, he’s acting out of anger because he didn’t understand that he was passing a poorly written law in a hurry that didn’t go into effect until July 1st … and he can’t stand being embarrassed, so he will come along next session and be spiteful. He got out-lawyered, which apparently he can’t handle.

      Freeman’s got a certain type of energy, the same type that encourages some men to buy ridiculously expensive sports cars …

  5. On the positive side, this could become a HUGE revenue stream to combat the pothole disaster of downtown Indy. Once visitors get tickets for unnecessary laws, they’ll find other places to spend money.

  6. Doesn’t Aaron Freeman have better things to do with his time than try and stop pedestrian deaths? How about actually representing your constituents in Indy and pass legislation for fair road funding.

  7. There are already a few intersections in Indy with No Right Turn on Red prohibitions. There is one at northbound Michigan Rd to eastbound 86th St. This one is poorly signed and numerous individuals get ticketed there annually because the signs are too far out of the line of sight for drivers of cars.