Should stop signs return to Bloomington’s 7-Line bike lane? Traffic commission next to take up question

When Bloomington’s 7-Line separated bicycle lane was built in 2021, five stop signs for east-west 7th Street traffic were removed,  under an ordinance enacted by the city council.

The stops for 7th Street traffic at Morton, Lincoln, Washington, Grant, and Dunn streets were removed, but those for the north-south side streets were left in place.

The elimination of the stops was meant to encourage the use of the east-west corridor by cyclists.

Now with a year’s worth of crash data in hand after the opening of the 7-Line, Bloomington’s city engineer Andrew Cibor is recommending that the five stop signs be reinstalled.

The reinstallation of the stop signs would have to be approved by the city council. Before the city council considers the engineer’s recommendation, two of the city’s advisory boards are supposed to weigh in—the bicycle and pedestrian safety commission (BPSC) and the traffic commission.

On Monday, the BPSC unanimously rejected the idea that all five stop signs should be reinstalled. But the BPSC unanimously supported reinstallation of the 7th Street stop signs at Dunn Street.

Next up to hear Cibor’s report will be the traffic commission, which meets at 4:30 p.m on Wednesday.

Cibor’s presentation to the city’s bicycle and pedestrian safety commission included some positive impacts, in addition to crash statistics.

Cibor’s report included a 25-percent increase in annualized bicycle and pedestrian counts at Park Avenue and 7th Street, near the Indiana University campus. The first period of comparison was from 2017 to 2019. The second period was the time after the 7-Line was opened in late 2021.

But Cibor’s report indicated that the 7th Street corridor showed an increase from 6.25 crashes per quarter to 10.25 crashes per quarter.

When the crashes are broken down by intersection, 7th Street at both Washington and Lincoln had 5 crashes in the last year. And 7th Street at Dunn had 12 crashes.

The guidance in the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) says that in order to add stop signs to create an all-way stop, an intersection should meet one of several criteria. One of the criteria is 5 or more reported crashes in a 12-month period that are susceptible to correction by a multi-way stop.

Cibor’s recommendation to reinstall the stop signs at all five intersections is based on the fact that three out of the five intersections meet the criterion for number of crashes. Cibor said the other two intersections were trending upward, even if they had not hit five crashes.

The vote by BPSC members to reject the reinstallation of all five stop signs came after a half dozen turns of public commentary, from speakers who were uniformly opposed to reinstallation of the stop signs.

Some of the commentary came from cyclists who reported that they have started using the 7-Line precisely because 7th Street traffic was not required to stop. At Morton Street, in the uphill (east) direction, a stop sign would mean loss of momentum that is useful for pedaling up the hill.

Cibor noted that in some of the police reports for the crashes, motorists who were approaching 7th Street on a north-south side street told the responding officer they thought it was an all-way stop. BPSC member Mitch Rice reacted to Cibor’s note by saying it’s a problem that motorists are causing. “I think this is in the lap of motorists,” he said.

Cibor is a member of the traffic commission, which will be the second advisory board to consider the 7th Street stop signs. The traffic commission’s meeting starts at 4:30 p.m on Wednesday.

Responding to a question from a BPSC member, Cibor said he is not certain when the issue of stop signs on 7th Street might be put in front of the city council. “Currently, this is, as far as I know, not even on the city council’s radar,” Cibor said. After the traffic commission has weighed in, Cibor said he’ll reach out to the city council’s office.

The issue is actually on at least one city councilmember’s radar. At the city council’s final meeting of 2022, on Dec. 21, Dave Rollo said during report time at the start of the meeting, “One important topic that was raised at councilmember Sandberg’s and my constituent meeting was pedestrian crossing on 7th Street.”

Rollo continued, “And I think that we should consider placing stop signs back there for safe crossing.” He added, “I might come forward with legislation in the coming weeks or months. But I would like to have a full throated discussion about that.”

26 thoughts on “Should stop signs return to Bloomington’s 7-Line bike lane? Traffic commission next to take up question

  1. The topic of the 7-Line came up at the Sandberg/Rollo constituent meeting last Saturday. There is awareness of Cibor’s report.

  2. Instruct police to rigorously hand out traffic tickets to bicycle rider doing running stops or failure to stop. They are obligated to follow the same rules as cars. Why waist money on more signs when ALL bicycle-riders know they MUST obey the same laws a scars on the road?

    1. Since there aren’t any stop signs on the 7, I don’t think that would be a whole lot of tickets.

      But Cibor did discuss how dangerous it was that cars were driving over the speed limit. Rigorously handing out speeding tickets on 7th Street would be an idea I could get behind, and if they gave out tickets to speeding cyclists as well I would be fine with that. Same laws and all!

    2. thanks for representing this viewpoint. you’re framing the debate well.

      there are two ways to describe the problem they’re trying to solve with the stop signs, and Cibor mentions both in his report. the first is that motorists on 7th street are going too fast. the average speed is higher than the speed limit, so they don’t have time to react and they add stress to everyone else. the second problem is that motorists on cross streets aren’t stopping when they should, or they are going when they shouldn’t. that’s what it says on the police report for most of these crashes.

      so we’ve got a pattern of two different kinds of motorist misbehavior causing motorist crashes and you are suggesting that motorists believe the solution should be to penalize cyclists.

      i couldn’t agree more. that’s exactly how motorists think. thanks!

      1. Greg, In my experience, most motorists are people. And a lot of those people have experience using bicycles, even though they’re motorists. It’s not that bad people drive and good people cycle. It’s that people make mistakes.

        Motorists and cyclists both make mistakes through lack of care. I lost a wonderful student almost forty years ago because she cycled through an intersection when she didn’t have the right of way. It haunts me to this day. People cycling and people driving are all prone to make mistakes common to people: focusing on their goals rather than on others. The priority for traffic design, as I see it in this case, is to engineer the safest pattern that will protect people when they are acting like people, cyclists and motorists alike. When a combination of drivers and cyclists is involved the primary object is protecting cycling people from driving people’s mistakes, and also cycling people from their own mistakes–but also walking people from both. It is not to create a design that engineers hope will change the way people behave because people are going to act like people, and, frankly, we’re a bad lot.

        I know it’s more of a physical inconvenience for cyclists, but I think the best solution is stop signs for everyone on the 7th St. stretch. It’s not a penalty: it’s safety. I don’t want anyone else to lose a student, or a child or friend.

  3. Ironically, because of your coverage of this subject, I chose 7th Street to travel from East to West at Indiana. I must say, it was blissful to drive uninterrupted! I was nervous about motorists not realizing that I wasn’t going to stop and mistakenly pull out in front me. Great coverage!!

    1. What route would you have ordinarily chosen? 10th is way better for driving on so I assume your final destination was to the south?

  4. As an automobile driver and an habitual person, I routinely forget that intersections with 7th St are not 4-way stops. The solution is not more stop signs. The solution is better signage or some other kind of indicator on the north-south streets to dislodge old habits or assumptions. And slow down the friggin’ cars! The job of city engineering is not to figure out how to get a car from point A to point B as fast as possible. If you want that, go live on a friggin’ freeway!

    BTW, I think the accidents are more likely caused by cars on north-south streets, stopping and then continuing without really looking because we are all used to 4-way stops in most of those areas. I don’t think bikes are buzzing across 7th St going north or south and causing collisions. I am also sympathetic to bike riders who need to ride to protect themselves from motorhead whack jobs who want to get from point A to B as fast as possible. There is a lot of that about. And I have been stopped by a cop for failure to completely stop when riding a bike. –chris

  5. A stop sign should be on 7th at Dunn. That intersection is extremely dangerous because of line-of-sight to the left on Dunn and the unusual bike path. By the time the car traffic is seen clear, yu go and don’t anticipate a bike from the right, on the wrong side of the roadway!

    The bike path should be split on both sides. No one expects bike traffic from the right, next to the left car lane. No one! Someone is going to get killed by that bike path design.

  6. i was heartened to hear so many other commenters at the BPSC meeting saying that they enjoy going up the hill on the 7-line without stop signs. that experience is, imo, the real proof that this project succeeded, and i’m glad i’m not the only one who thinks so.

    if you tune in to the traffic commission meeting this afternoon, you’ll hear the real reason that cm Rollo wants to remove me from the commission. i’m going to present this 4-point plan:

    1. reduce the speed limit to 20 and put up signs (imo it was a bureaucratic lapse that this didn’t happen already). drivers would *far* prefer to go 20 and not stop than to have a higher speed limit and stop signs every block!

    2. BPD needs to enforce! as a community we cannot accept that illegal behavior by motorists will sabotage every safety initiative! i believe engineering is far more effective than enforcement. engineering should always come before enforcement. well, engineering has come and now it’s time for enforcement. it will not be hard to convince drivers to go slower on this stretch of road, it will just take a little nudge. we need that nudge!

    3. restore 2-way circulation on indiana ave. the only reason there are that many cars on dunn in the first place is that they came eastbound from campus and *want* to head south on indiana but they are forced onto dunn instead. 1-way pairs serve no purpose in an urban setting than to encourage drivers to get into wrecks, and we are seeing that today. focusing the tension at a single intersection that already has a 4-way stop will have a bunch of advantages. most importantly, 4-way stops *work better where there is more traffic*. drivers ignore the stop sign if they aren’t used to seeing traffic there, but if it’s busy then they will all stop (i urge you to visit 11th & rogers and 11th & fairview to witness this contrast in driver behavior).

    4. a year or 2 later, we need to re-study this problem, and if any intersections jump out as red flags, *we need to close that facility to motorists*. this is an urban environment and a fine-grained transportation network for motorists is not essential to its function. “if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out” — no way! i need my eyes. but we do not need cars on every single block of downtown.

    i believe downtown is for people. as a community, we need cars, but only because they carry people. the people are far more important than the cars. we simply do not need to accept driver misbehavior in every part of downtown in order for downtown to thrive.

    cm. Rollo believes differently. he spent $30M on parking garages. he voted to force apartment builders to subsidize parking beyond market demand. he grandstanded for the greenways program when it had no money (look it up, the Platinum Bicycling Task Force, it’s his baby) but now that it has money he wants to kill it. he believes in symbolic actions for “the environment” but i believe in actually creating a healthy environment for the people of this city.

    never forget, there’s something substantive going on. like my contracts professor told me, “the facts always matter.”

  7. As others have noted, it’d probably be best to first get the speed of motor traffic reduced on 7th Street, then increase signage of existing north-south stops so they are more visible. I use 7th both as a motorist and a cyclist, and almost universally the problem is motorists going north/south not paying attention to the signage. That’s a failure in design, and should be corrected.

    That said, the Morton/7th intersection is a total failure in design, and needs to be vigorously redesigned, or stop signs need to be installed going east/west. The on-street parking in that area blocks visibility for both motorists and cyclists at that intersection, and regardless of how I am trying to navigate it, it is stressful. It is a badly designed intersection and better bump-outs and less on-street parking is required in the approach to that intersection, OR it needs to be made a 4-way stop.

  8. I had assumed that the risk of crashes mainly came from north-south cars stopping and then proceeding without seeing hard-to-spot bicycles crossing east-west at speed. But apparently most of the actual crashes have been between two cars. Can this be clarified?

    In any case, crossing 7th Street seems now to require the utmost caution.

    1. Nearly all reported crashes were a result of drivers on the side street failing to yield to drivers on 7th Street, according to the Bike/Ped meeting packet.

  9. Do you know how rare it is for an engineer to request stop signs? Extremely rare! Cibor is a progressive engineer and accidents matter. Common sense sees that increases traffic speed results from no stop signs.

  10. Only use the stop sign for vehicles and the buses. Let the bikes free to use the multi million dollar project to it’s full capacity.

  11. I’ve enjoyed the vigorous, but respectful, debate of very different points of view. The bottom line for me is safety and Dunn/7th is a major safety hazard as built.

  12. All in favor of replacing the signs, for auto traffic. This is a fun topic.

    1. engineers must be the only persons in the world who think you can take away a stop sign, and everyone will figure it out they don’t need to stop. That ignores the learned experience of every motorist who has driven that road before. Those who have driven the street before think “aren’t I supposed to stop here? I have for the past 40 years.” There would need to be a “GO” sign to help those people out. Do engineers think habits are easy to break? Do they think no one has driven the road before? Their understanding of humans is reminiscent of economists before Daniel Kahneman’s work showed how off base they were. Where is the Daniel Kahneman of traffic engineers?

    2. similarly on the cross streets (I’ve gone to work and back on a cross street of 7th every work day since ’87 – that’s a deeply ingrained habit) – there should be something significant to say that the cross traffic is not going to stop. And I’m not sure any signage would work. I’ve forgotten to check several times – lucky to still be here.

    3. Crash data is not picking up the single car mishaps. I’ve seen a westbound at 7th and Grant try to turn left and miss, I saw someone two weeks ago try to turn east on the bicycle path at 7th, get hung up, back up and rev it through and over to get to the traffic lane.

    4. who cares what the cyclists do? we could put in stops for the cars and not for the bikes, or tell the bikes to yield if a car is already there. all summer when there is no traffic, why would you make a bike stop at each intersection when there is no other traffic? Just let them rip. if you are not there as a motorist, what do you care what they do? (tree in the forest and all that)

    5. The comment that the dual lanes for the bikes are confusing is dead on. A car heading south on the cross streets has to check the near westbound car lane, the further eastbound car lane, the westbound bike lane and the eastbound bike lane, and by that time, they should be checking the auto lanes again, and when they decide to cross, they have to remember the pedestrians on the sidewalk.

    6. the least traffic is around during the best biking weather – I don’t think we need to make bicycles stop when there is no other traffic on the road. What is the point of that?

    7. Cars will travel as fast as the road lets them comfortably drive. I thought these 7th street lanes were narrow enough, but it did not take motorists long to get comfortable exceeding the speed limit. What sense does it make to build a road you can drive 50 miles per hour on and put up a 20 mph speed limit sign? make the road uncomfortable to drive more than 25 mph and you will hit your target without signage. speed limit signs are ridiculous in most places.

    8. There are no police. We only have 78 when we are supposed to have 105. They are busier now with serious crime than ever before. They don’t have time to enforce stupid situations created by people who have no clue what real humans do until they see “crash data.”

    1. you raised a bunch of excellent points. i want to double down on your 7. the design really is very good and is specifically oriented to discourage people driving over 20. there are probably a few choices that could’ve been made differently to restrict speeds, but i’ve been looking at (and criticizing) road design for a long time and the 7-line represents the absolute best speed-reducing engineering choices i’ve seen in this city, short of like the speed humps every 500ft that they’re installing in some of the “value-engineered” (aka cheap / underfunded / cowardly) greenway projects.

      the problem, like you say, is that drivers are just driving fast even so. and that brings me to #8.
      the engineers who made the 7-line weren’t naive. they know the blueprint. first, you engineer it for speed, and second you give a little nudge of enforcement. it is so stupid to rely only on enforcement when the engineering is no good. *but the engineering on the 7-line is good*. it won’t take much enforcement. but enforcement is needed. the engineers didn’t create a stupid situation, reckless criminals did. maybe the police, really, created the stupid situation by so pervasively signalling to citizens that reckless driving is tolerated here.

      as for the police shortage…i’ve had enough interactions with police over petty garbage to concretely say, they are not tied up with “serious crime.” they’re still the front-line warriors in class warfare, just like police everywhere in this country. the vast majority of their calls are nuissance / petty property crime that bpd over-responds to. even when bpd is stretched thin, they can accomplish a great deal it is just a question of priorities. and traffic safety is not a priority of bpd, it’s not even on their map. they don’t even drive safely in their own cars with their emergency lights off.

  13. Millions of dollars of to-do, mindless exercises in ineffective traffic control. Council time, engineering time, and none of it worked. This is why there should be one council meeting a month, limited to one hour/meeting. Endless debate rendered a totally useless 7th St nightmare ensued.

    My vote is to roll it all back to stop signs, remove the extra bike lane, and just admit that people drive cars in this city and always will. Give lee to bikes and pedestrians, in certainty. Because of the constant flow of new visitors to Bloomington, the engineering must always take that fact into consideration and make conservative traffic flow choices, even if they delay auto or bike traffic. It’s not that big of a town that extra stop signs won’t hurt. It’s the additionally mind-numbing 25mph, no-right-turn-after-stop, and hour long single intersection stop sign debates that truly show the mettle of the council. Good grief.

  14. Is this meeting available to view? The zoom link from the agenda just says “this meeting has not started yet”, and it isn’t available on CATS with all of the other government meetings from 3/22.

      1. Oh, shoot. I thought traffic commission meetings were typically recorded on CATS, but I it looks like I was wrong about that. I’ve emailed the relevant support staff to see if they’ve got a recording of the Zoom version they can push to the public.

        If you’re looking for just the box score, it was the same as for bicycle and pedestrian safety commmission—unanimous in favor of recommending the Dunn Street intersection have stop signs reinstalled. But the motion for all five failed. With any luck, the considerations that led to those votes will also be available on the recording.

  15. The current 7th Street/7-Line without stop signs favors motor vehicle traffic over pedestrians and bicyclists. It also favors fictional “thoroughfare cyclists” over real cyclists in one of the most walkable/bikable and walked/biked neighborhoods in Bloomington. It bisects this neighborhood with an unenforced vehicular speedway, and added new risks to some bicyclists who must now cross two lanes of two-directional unstopped vehicular traffic just to get to and from home. And, after a year in use, it still has huge functional awareness issues as to lanes and usage, especially under snow.

    It’s time to bring back the stop signs (or remove motor traffic from 7th Street) before you get someone killed.

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