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Indianapolis leaders shelve right-on-red ban after preemptive law takes effect

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A bicycle safety advocate on Tuesday said she’s disappointed city officials won’t be able to enact what she considers a simple safety measure.

The Indianapolis City-County Council was scheduled to vote on a blanket ban on right turns on red in the heart of downtown at its Monday night meeting.

The proposal, along with three intersection-specific ones, was dropped due to a new law Gov. Eric Holcomb signed on May 4. The bill includes language added late in the legislative process that prohibits the city of Indianapolis from enacting any new bans on right turns on red.

The law doesn’t take effect until July 1 but council members backed down anyway.

Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, wrote the provision. A former City-County Council member, Freeman told News 8 he felt targeted right-on-red bans are appropriate but the council’s proposal went too far.

He says it would have worsened congestion downtown, particularly during conventions and sporting events. Freeman also says Indianapolis’ status as the state capital and largest city makes smooth traffic flow especially important.

Statistics compiled by the group Indianapolis Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Crisis show cars have killed 10 pedestrians on Indianapolis’ streets since Jan. 1. Another 144 pedestrians and 12 bicyclists have been hit but survived.

Connie Szabo Schmucker, an instructor at an Indianapolis bicycle shop and a safety advocate, says when a driver pulls out to make a right turn on a red light, they block the crosswalk riders and walkers can use.

“If you are looking to your left to see if it’s clear to make a right turn, you’re not looking in front of you,” she said. “Just because you’re allowed to turn on red doesn’t mean you have to turn on red.”

Freeman says pedestrian deaths and injuries are due to distracted driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana, not people turning right on red.

“We’ve got to live in a world where both are aware, so pedestrians have to be aware. If you’re riding a bicycle, you have to be aware. If you are driving a car, you have to be aware,” he said.

The council members who introduced the blanket downtown right-on-red ban turned down News 8’s request for an interview. In a statement sent Monday night, they said they would continue working on other measures meant to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe.