April 16, 2023

No right turn on red proposals lose bipartisan support

The area where right turn on red will be impacted. (Photo: City of Indianapolis)

The area where right turn on red will be impacted. (Photo: City of Indianapolis)

A proposal to ban right turns on red in the downtown core passed an Indianapolis City-County Council committee last week. The measure moved forward without the bipartisan support expected.

Since the 1980s a right turn on red is practice American drivers take for granted. While it can save time on gas and travel, it can also be dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.  Indianapolis pedestrian fatalities have ticked up in recent years. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department reported 40 deaths last year.

A Public Works committee recently heard four no turn on red proposals that would impact about 190 intersections. The traffic restriction is known to help avoid accidents that are more likely when a vehicle is turning.

Health by Design Executive Director Kim Irwin said the move has been part of a pedestrian plan the organization has supported since 2016.

“We know how to prevent it. We know what we need to do in order to put policies in place, practices in place to do things to reduce that risk as much as possible and so it's imperative that we take action to do that,” Irwin said.

Republican Councilor Josh Bain said the focus should be more on driver behavior.

“I don't think putting a sign there telling people they cannot turn on red is going to change the drivers that you describe. Behavior, I think it remains an enforcement issue whether you have a sign there or not,” Bain said.

State lawmakers recently passed an amendment to a bill that would restrict the ability of the council  to ban turns in Marion County.  Indianapolis Department of Public Works Director Brandon Herget said the city would still move forward with the proposals.

“It is not law and so for the purposes of this committee, for the purpose of this department, the Department of Public Works will continue to support these proposals because the data supports these proposals,” Herget said.

The intersections include all streets bounded by and including 11th Street/Oscar Robertson Boulevard/10th Street, White River Parkway West Drive, Interstate I-70, and Interstate I-65. The proposals do not include state highways.

The no turn on red proposals follow a multi-year study of pedestrian-related crashes in the downtown area, which found about 57 percent of those incidents were the result of turning vehicles failing to yield to pedestrians at intersections.  

Four Republican councilors voted against the proposals, which still passed with Democratic support. The proposals now move to the full council for a vote next month.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @JillASheridan.

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