Bloomington acts on plan to nix 7th Street stop signs to aid traffic flow for bicycle lane

Washington Street looking south at 7th Street. (Dave Askins/B Square 2021-10-09)

In a news release issued on Friday (Oct. 8), the city of Bloomington publicized its removal of stop signs along 7th Street at cross streets between Walnut Street and Indiana Avenue.

The removal of the stop signs is intended to help the traffic flow on 7th Street.

The east-west street will eventually see the completion of the 7-Line, a separated bicycle lane, which is under construction on the south side of the roadway. The two-way bicycle lane on 7th Street will stretch from the B-Line on the west, to Woodlawn Avenue on the east.

In transportation engineering terms, what the city is implementing is a new “traffic pattern.”

As a practical matter, the removal of stop signs on 7th Street means that motorists and other users of the cross streets will have to be alert. The traffic on 7th Street no longer has to stop at four intersections.

Vehicles on Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Dunn streets will continue to see a stop sign when they reach the 7th Street intersection.

To help get drivers and other users of the roadway accustomed to the new traffic pattern, yellow “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” signage has been attached to the stop signs for cross streets. Electronic signs that flash a warning about the new traffic pattern have also been placed at some of the intersections.

The removal of the 7th Street stop signs was approved by Bloomington’s city council over a year ago, on Aug. 12, 2020.

According to the planning and transportation department staff’s presentation to the city council in August of 2020, the decision to remove the 7th Street stop signs was based on the relatively smaller traffic counts on the cross streets, compared to the counts on 7th Street.

The city council’s 2020 approval of the ordinance made several other changes to city code, in connection with the creation of the 7-Line bicycle lane. Those changes included the elimination of several on-street parking spaces on 7th Street.

The removal of the 7th Street stop signs at Morton Street is included in the ordinance approved by the city council.

Even though the focus right now is on the removal of stop signs for 7th Street traffic at some intersections, the 7-Line project includes the addition of stop signs at one spot on 7th Street.

That’s the spot on the western end of the project where the B-Line Trail crosses 7th Street. Under the ordinance approved by the city council in 2020, 7th Street traffic will be required to stop and yield to traffic on the B-Line.

The construction of the 7-Line has a ways to go before it can be called complete. The project started on its east end and has worked its way west. The last bit, from Morton Street to the B-Line, still needs a lot of work on the street itself.

Farther east, the curbed islands that form the separations, as well as the paving and striping work, look mostly complete. On those stretches, the roadway is open to automobile traffic, but the bikeway is barricaded at the end of each block.

The part of the 7-Line that runs along the north side of Dunn Meadow on Indiana University’s campus could be described as complete, except for the curbed island at 7th Street and Indiana Avenue.

Presenting a challenge for public buses was the original placement of the curbed island. They could not make the right-hand turn from Indiana Avenue onto 7th Street, without crossing over into the westbound lane. Any westbound car stopped at the white bar pavement marking would have needed to back up to give room to a bus trying to make the turn.

So at least 10 feet of the curbed island now has been removed—so that it doesn’t extend as far west towards the intersection with Indiana Avenue. The spot, which is marked with orange barrels, has not yet been repaved.

Presenting a challenge for some motorists at the campus gateway intersection has been the bikeway itself. In one hour, The B Square observed two right-turning drivers initially judge the bicycle lane to be the course they wanted, and drove a bit into the lane before realizing their mistake, backing up and choosing the correct lane.

Responding to an emailed question about possible ways to mediate against motorists misjudging the turn, city engineer Andrew Cibor wrote, “The city is actively monitoring the use of the 7th Street corridor. The corridor is undergoing some significant changes which requires all users to adapt to new patterns which can be hard and take some time.”

Cibor wrote that even though stop signs have been removed at some intersections on 7th Street, some drivers are still stopping. Cibor added, “This is an active construction site and work is not yet complete. We will continue to make assessments and evaluate possible enhancements while the project is ongoing and even after the project is complete.”

A $2.5 million construction contract for the 7-Line was awarded to Milestone Contractors. It’s funded through bonds approved by the city council in late 2018. Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved another $673K for the 7-Line in June, around the time the construction started. That brought the total project cost to around $3.2 million.

3 thoughts on “Bloomington acts on plan to nix 7th Street stop signs to aid traffic flow for bicycle lane

  1. The stop signs had to be removed to make the bike lane at all useful. 7th street has always been intended to be a bike route, but it has been next to impossible to use since you have to stop on every block.

  2. Given the continued concerns expressed by the transit drivers union about the narrowness of the driving lines, the removal of the stop signs will probably lead to higher driving speeds and increased accidents. Not to mention, how many people will lose control of vehicles when they inadvertently run into the bike lane barriers? If I were a cyclist, I would consider this corridor less safe, not more safe.

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