UPDATE (05/08/2023): The Indianapolis City-County Council announced on Monday, May 8, it will not move forward with the “no turn on red” proposal.
INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis City-County Councilors are trying to ban turning right on red lights in downtown Indianapolis, but one state senator is trying to stop the move.
Right now, only a few intersections in downtown Indy are marked “no turn on red.” If the council proposal were to pass, it would change every intersection in the “downtown core” to no turn on red.
The proposed boundaries of the “no turn on red” zone are 10th and 11th streets to the north, I-65 to the east, I-70 to the south and the White River Parkway West.
State Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, added an amendment to House Bill 1050 that would not allow the City-County Council to outlaw right turns on red in Indy.
”I proudly will say it, I’ll put it on a coffee mug,” Freeman said. “I’m all for local government until it’s stupid, and that is stupid.”
Freeman said the proposal would just lead to traffic congestion in downtown Indy.
”It’s almost like you’re messing traffic up and trying to create traffic congestion so much that you’re forcing people to ride a bus service,” Freeman said.
The City-County Council is expected to vote on the proposal during a meeting in May. The Publics Works Committee voted to send the proposal to the full council on April 13.
The councilors who originally presented the proposal — President Vop Osili, Vice President Zach Adamson and Councilor Kristin Jones — released this statement following the Freeman’s amendment.
“Pedestrian safety is a concern we share with our constituents, and it remains a priority for us. We have been working 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. The Council is responsible for enacting local laws, including local traffic laws. It is unfortunate and disappointing; therefore, that the Indiana Senate has proposed an amendment to HB1050, which could hinder our ability to do so. This amendment is not only concerning for us but for our constituents who bring these issues to our attention. We remain committed to addressing the safety of our constituents, and do what we can to keep pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers safe, and we urge the General Assembly to not move forward with this amendment.”
Connie Szabo Schmucker is the advocacy director for Bicycle Garage Indy. She shares the councilors’ frustration. She said this proposal would improve pedestrian safety – something she calls a crisis.
“We’re all aware that there is a problem, we’re all trying to work on solutions and no turn on red is one of those solutions,” Schmucker said.
The Indy Dept. of Public Works did a five year traffic study showing, in part, nearly 57% of pedestrian crashes in the downtown core happened with turning cars not yielding to people crossing the road.
”Isn’t somebody’s life worth 30 seconds of waiting?” Schmucker asked.
DPW Director Brandon Herget talked about Freeman’s amendment to HB 1050 during an April 13 Public Works Committee meeting.
“It is not law, for the purposes of this committee, for the purpose of this department, the Department of Public Works continues to support these proposals, all these proposals, because the data supports these proposals,” Herget said. “And we’ll wait to see what plays out at the statehouse.”
In response to the data presented by DPW, Freeman said these accidents are all tragedies but points to Indiana Criminal Justice Institute data he gave to FOX59.
It shows total crashes in all of Marion County from 2010 through 2020. The DPW data only used crashes in downtown Indy, because the no right turn on red rule would only affect downtown Indy.
The data did not include 2021 or 2022. FOX59 reached out to the ICJI for those years, but the data was not available by the time of the story deadline.
The data shows 2020 had the fewest pedestrian involved crashes over the previous six years. It’s worth mentioning 2020 was the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic where fewer Hoosiers were on the roads due to the virus. Data on pedestrian crashes was not available for 2010 through 2014 on the information given.
Freeman said the bigger problem is driver behavior.
“We need more traffic enforcement,” Freeman said. “We need more people to be aware of their driving. Put the phone down, don’t consume alcohol, don’t be high on marijuana.”
Schmucker said the proposal would be an important safety change for a city focused on welcoming visitors from around the world.
”I hope we could all agree that everyone should be able to cross the street with the walk signal and not be fearful of getting hit,” Schmucker said.
On the same note, Freeman argues all those visitors, and the everyday driver in downtown, need to be allowed to turn on red when safe, without a ban.
”We don’t want to set up a situation where traffic congestion is so bad, and that’s what we’re on the track to do, that people can’t drive here,” he said.
The house bill carrying Freeman’s amendment to ban no right turn on red restrictions in Indianapolis passed out of the Senate but was sent to conference committee in the house. Lawmakers will negotiate the final version of the bill.
”Seven amendments were filed and six of them ended up in the bill, so the whole thing is very interesting. So we’ll see what happens in conference and we’re looking forward to working on it,” said State Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, the original author of HB 1050.
If the bill were to pass, the earliest a ban to no right turn on red restrictions in Indianapolis would go into effect is July 1.