Traffic commission agrees with bike/ped group on 7th Street: Reinstall stop sign only at Dunn

A recommendation from city engineer Andrew Cibor, to reinstall five stop signs along 7th Street in downtown Bloomington, will not have complete support from two advisory groups when it lands in front of the city council.

On Monday, the bicycle and pedestrian safety commission (BPSC) recommended reinstalling just one of the five stop signs, which were removed in connection with the construction of the 7-Line separated bicycle lane under an ordinance enacted by the city council.

On Wednesday, the traffic commission followed suit, unanimously recommending that the intersection at 7th and Dunn street be restored to an all-way stop.

It’s not clear when the recommendation will be put in front of the city council for a vote.

The impetus behind Cibor’s recommendation to reinstall the stop signs is an increase in crashes at the intersections after the 7-Line was opened in late 2021.

Both appointed groups explicitly rejected Cibor’s recommendation that stops for 7th Street traffic at Morton, Lincoln, Washington, and Grant streets also be reinstalled.

The vote against reinstallation of the other four stop signs was unanimous on the BPSC. But traffic commissioners were split 4–2.

Cibor is a member of the city’s traffic commission and voted to support his own recommendation. The other vote for reinstallation came from Bloomington police officer and traffic commissioner Benjamin Burns.

Cibor’s report to the traffic commission about the 7-Line 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.

At this week’s BPSC  meeting, commentary against reinstallation of all five stops 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’s report to BPSC and the traffic commission 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.

Getting better compliance by north-south drivers is one part of the challenge, Cibor said. But the other contributing factor to crashes is that 7th Street drivers are going too fast for them to accommodate a north-south driver’s mistake.

The speed limit for that part of 7th Street is 25 mph. But the average speed recorded in Cibor’s report is 27 mph with an 85th percentile at around 32 mph.

In the state of Indiana, urban roadways like 7th Street by default have a speed limit of 30 mph, but cities can impose a lower speed limit of 25 mph.

Based on B Square inspection, in the westbound direction along the 7-Line corridor, the only place where a 25 mph speed-limit sign is posted is just after the turn onto 7th from Woodlawn. The B Square could not identify any 25 mph speed-limit signs in the eastbound direction.

Traffic commissioner Greg Alexander talked about the relationship between enforcement of speed limits and the engineered design of the 7-Line, which has a two-way bicycle lane on the south side of the roadway, separated from car traffic by medians. “Now we’ve got a good design,” Alexander said. He added, “And I think it would only take a little coercion to get drivers to accept going slower here.”

Alexander asked Cibor: “Have we tried enforcement? Have you had any conversations or cooperation with BPD?”

Cibor said that there are limited tools available for enforcement—automated ticketing for speeding is off the table in the state of Indiana. Bloomington’s police department is currently staffed at levels way under what the budget calls for, which is part of an ongoing recruitment and retention challenge.

Alexander wanted to know Cibor’s opinion about possibly reducing the speed limit on 7th Street to 20 mph. Cibor didn’t sound sanguine about the idea of just looking at 7th Street for that kind of change. He recommended a more comprehensive approach to the 20 mph question.

Cibor said when the 7-Line was being designed, city staff hoped that the measured speeds would be closer to 20 mph. Cibor said it would be worth looking at 4th Street, Kirkwood Avenue, and 6th Street, and other other streets in the immediate downtown area, to consider lowering the speed limit to 20 mph.

“I’m not necessarily opposed or in favor, but I think that that is a good question that probably warrants additional and probably its own focused conversation,” Cibor said.

Responding to a question from the B Square from the public mic, Cibor said the report he’d given on the 7-Line was not the statutorily required “engineering and traffic investigation” that would be required to lower the speed limit on 7th Street from 25 mph to 20 mph.

Ryne Shadday, who is president of the traffic commission, said that it’s motorists who need to look out for bicycles and pedestrians. “As motorists, we are driving one- to six-ton vehicles or more, on the streets.” He continued, “We have the responsibility of paying attention to who we might kill.”

He added, “At the end of the day, the motorists are driving the killing machine, right?” Shadday asked, “So why are we still putting the onus on the bicyclists and the pedestrians to stop, when the motorists are the ones who need to be paying attention here?”

In his final comments, Alexander advocated for slower speeds on 7th Street. “The design can work,” he said, “but not if it’s impossible to get drivers to slow down.”

Alexander said that given a choice, drivers would prefer to drive only 20 mph if that means they don’t have to stop every block. About the speed, Alexander said, “I think we need to reduce the speed limit to 20. And we need to have enforcement—we cannot simply concede the speed battle.”

Alexander also suggested that Indiana Avenue be made into a two-way street—it’s currently one-way north. The reason Dunn Street carries as many cars as it does, Alexander said, is that many of Dunn Street’s southbound motorists would prefer to be driving south on Indiana Avenue.

Wednesday’s traffic commission meeting was the first one of the year. It was also the first meeting since calls were made for Alexander’s removal from the commission, based on Tweets he posted last year, in connection with a stop sign installation at Maxwell Lane and Sheridan Drive in the Elm Heights neighborhood.

City councilmembers Susan Sandberg, Dave Rollo, and Ron Smith have indicated that they want to remove Alexander from the commission for Tweets that were crude (“haters gonna hate and bloomington democrats gonna lick the shit out from between elm heights’ neighbors ass cheeks.”) or made them feel threatened (“what are they punching through with? i would really like to know. it sounds like they are going to savagely penetrate your neighborhood and i want to know what they’re going to use to do that?”).

Two motions on Alexander’s removal have been made at previous meetings, but withdrawn. It’s still possible that another motion on his removal could be made at the city council’s next meeting on March 29.

At the start of Wednesday’s traffic commission meeting, vice president Sarah Ryterband commented on the city council’s possible action to remove Alexander.

Ryterband said, “I just wanted to express my deep disappointment that a common council member would malign a member of the traffic commission, who is doing an exemplary job as a traffic commissioner.” She continued, “I want Mr. Alexander to know that he has my absolute support.”

Ryterband added, “I am disappointed in his use of social media to express his personal opinions—not as a member of the traffic commission but as a person.”

About social media in general, Ryterband said, “For those who choose to go to social media as a way of communicating one to another, if you’re going to wade into a cesspool, you can expect to be dirty, and to find a lot of filth.”

She concluded, “So I would suggest that that’s not the best way to communicate with other humans.”

15 thoughts on “Traffic commission agrees with bike/ped group on 7th Street: Reinstall stop sign only at Dunn

  1. Cibor in all of this is a highly and well prepared professional who operates with political blinders for the best interests and safety of all. I would go with his suggestions and recommendations.

  2. Here is why you listen to people who have degrees in traffic management. Because when a pedestrian get hit by a car and injured or killed they can’t sue unqualified people the city has allowed to give recommendations. Someone would have every right to sue the people who made this recommendation and the people within our city government that allowed them. There are reasons the city hires qualified people. It’s to limit liability. It’s not a free for all out there.

  3. Curiously, in the course of other bike/pedestrian discussions some people indicated that we should defer to experts in such matters. But apparently that is only true when the expert expresses an agreeable viewpoint to those people. If not, they reserve the right to pick and choose, a right not afforded others.

  4. i agree with experts when they’re right, and not when they’re wrong.

    Mr. Cibor said that the stop signs would certainly harm cyclists, would make it less desirable as a cycling path. he was right when he said that.

    he said it might help them, because it might manage conflicts at the intersections. fwiw, he was absolutely wrong when he said that and he should have known better. but even in his telling, the advantage to cyclists is speculative and the disadvantage is certain.

    Cibor is by far the best thing to have ever happened to our Engineering Department but the certified engineers in that department, and the consultants they hire, have a long history of ignoring bike and ped guidance from the American Asssocation of State Highway Officials and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. even under Cibor’s guidance, this tendency hasn’t stopped. i definitely disagree with engineers fairly often.

    for example, the claim that he hasn’t conducted an engineering study sufficient to lower the speed limit to 20mph is bogus. i don’t agree with Cibor there. he is trying to cover his ass politically. he does not have political blinders, and he couldn’t do his job if he did. he has the authority to lower the speed limit based on a study of any level of superficiality so long as it was conducted personally.

    and i’ve confronted him on this before, what criteria could he possibly assess that might say that drivers should be going over 20 there? i’ve tried real hard to extract the criteria from his department on several occasions and this is what i’ve come up with: they believe the speed limit should be too high if it’s in an area of town where they’ve given up on meeting the safety goals of the transportation plan, such as (broadly) north of the bypass or south of Hillside. in those areas, no amount of planning will convince their department that anything (safety, accessibility, equity) might be more important than the prompt and reckless movement of cars.

    this is 7th street downtown. i’m never going to agree with an engineer saying we should give up on controlling speeds in this context.

    1. I have a hard time seeing the reinstallation of stop signs as “harming” cyclists, Greg. It may annoy them, make their rides less enjoyable, and add physical strain–is that what Mr. Cibor was calling “harm?” I think the stop signs would indeed make the 7th St. path less desirable to cyclists. It would also make the path less desirable to motorists. (Motorists driving north-south would benefit.)

      The absolute beneficiaries would be pedestrians.

      If we are concerned about auto speeds exceeding 20 mph on 7th St., the two options for controlling it are stop signs at every street (we can predict a near 100% success rate), or lowering the speed limit and diverting scarce police resources to enforcing that so stringently that the news will reach all drivers that 20 means 20 (I don’t believe there is a road in town where drivers routinely consider the speed limit to be a hard maximum). Apart from the fact that the police resources don’t currently exist, I believe there is no way to approach the 100% result you seem to be demanding using this approach. I’m not arguing against a 20 mph limit, but if you want a 20 mph outcome you’ll likely need a 15 mph limit (unless you want to add speed bumps, etc.).

      I’m no longer a cyclist (and was always clumsy at it), so I may be missing something, but why is such a high priority being placed on the recreational enjoyability of cycling this non-scenic city street, to the point that it is worth pedestrians requiring increased caution and potential danger?

      1. i want to make sure i’m not putting words in Mr. Cibor’s mouth. here’s how he put it in the report, “It is worth noting that the majority of crashes are a result of motor vehicle drivers failing to yield to other motor vehicles, but the improvement option of implementing all-way stop control would have the most negative impact to efficiency for transit and bicycle/scooter traffic.”

        “negative impact to efficiency”. that’s against the point of the project, to provide a desirable path for cyclists. there is so much effort into putting desirable paths for drivers, to such a huge detriment to the city. definitely most drivers perceive even the tiniest “negative impact to efficiency” to be a great harm to them!

        i don’t think the stop signs will see anywhere near a 100% performance rate by any metric, most especially vehicles coming to a complete stop, or even entering the crosswalks at less than 10mph. i don’t expect police to have a 100% performance rate either. 100% isn’t something reasonable from any intervention. but where there is good engineering already setting an expectation of 20mph speeds, it does not take a major intervention to change behavior.

        almost everyone who spoke at the BPSC, public or commissioner, mentioned that engineering staff needs to consider alternative techniques to reduce speeds.

        i will say it again, it is impossible to meet our transportation safety goals if it is impossible to ask drivers to travel 20mph for more than a block at a time. if you assume dangerous lawlessness with every automobile act then you accept a world of daily crashes, and about 3 annual fatalities on city streets. not to mention always-worsening traffic jams, pollution, and segregation.

        or to put it a different way. if we achieve the incredibly rare accomplishment of spending $2.5M nominally on a bicycle project and still we are unable to deliver a desirable path for cyclists, then what future do you foresee? what do you think *should* happen?

      2. Greg, I don’t want to belabor the semantics, but when the city lowers speed limits on streets I drive I do not consider I’ve been “harmed” as a motorist. That’s a distortion of language and meaning. On the other hand, I’ll give you the 100% point, although I do believe that with stop signs at every corner you will likely have 100% compliance with the speed limit (rolling stops are not going to get drivers byond 20 mph on a one-block stretch)–you will surely have far greater compliance than with 20 mph signs on a four-block stretch. But you will get plenty of rolling stops.

        It seems to me that the bottom line of your argument is this: “if we achieve the incredibly rare accomplishment of spending $2.5M nominally on a bicycle project and still we are unable to deliver a desirable path for cyclists, then what future do you foresee?” I don’t know about the future, but looking into the past I see $2.5M spent on a misguided project; it’s a shame, but settling for less safety in order that the money seem somehow well spent when it was not is an unattractive option to me.

        Cyclists have successfully lobbied for a separate lane on 7th and they will not have to negotiate cars. I can understand the problem of cycling up from Morton, but I am not at all sympathetic with prioritizing ease of cycling over safety between Walnut and Dunn. To use that scale of funds to modify one city street in order to improve the pleasure of cyclists at the expense of efficiency for drivers and safety for pedestrians seems to me to reflect a poor set of values. (For the record, the reason I’ve been sympathetic to many of your ideas, even when you used to pound me on the HTO, is because I support your efforts to increase non-motorist safety and the access of low-income neighborhoods to funding for critically needed improvements. Cycling safety is part of the first, but maximizing its recreational value is not, and I do not see cyclists as disadvantaged in access to city government.)

        Perhaps this is because I’m not a cyclist and I have a bias that prevents me from seeing why cycling pleasure is more important than safety (including pedestrian safety, a point you did not address). But when I’m in town I’m generally a motorist, and I have no trouble supporting with enthusiasm pedestrian-friendly changes such as the new no-turn-on-right signs that have “negative impact on efficiency” for me as a driver.

        As for motorist behavior, I’ll note again that the vast majority of motorists are people. They do not somehow become bad when they get into a car. Some motorists are even cyclists; they are not bad either, and I know of no evidence that they drive cars differently from non-cyclists. People exceed speed limits routinely everywhere on earth that I have been, and I expect that if there are not stop signs to prevent it they will do so on 7th St. whenever they don’t see a police car. And if you have a serious ticket-writing campaign on East 7th Street, diverting scarce police resources to redeem an expensive luxury project, I think you’ll have some disgusted citizens on the underserved West side.

      3. thanks for the thoughtful reply Bob. i kind of read with exasperation a couple of your apparent factual claims, “I do believe that with stop signs at every corner you will likely have 100% compliance with the speed limit” and “They do not somehow become bad when they get into a car.” people are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ in a universal sense but rather in specific attributes. and people who are driving inevitably have a few characteristics: enhanced pollution, danger, and consumption. there are trade offs to be made. society needs to have some tolerance for vehicular transportation. but every last driver will be causing these harms to their neighbors. the act of getting in a car will transform them into harmful actors. let’s not deny the plain truth! there’s a cost!

        but probably that was unproductive of me. i think really you highlighted something valuable in your assumption of 100% compliance: we’re talking too much about tactics — stop signs, barrier-protected bike lanes, enforcement — when we haven’t had any mutual understanding about goals?

        do you think it’s worth spending public money to make quality bike infrastructure that provides desirable experiences to the bicyclists who pursue transportation along it? you don’t like the 7-line, ok? what do you like? thanks!

      4. With all due respect to all of us, I fear that sometimes I sound and/or am a little childish. So much trivia. And so many of the quarrels. As the wise philosophizing Rodney King urged from the streets of LA, “Can’t we all just get along.”

      5. Nice reply, Greg, and, coincidentally, in the spirit of James Stainbrook’s interjection.

        Concerning your point on vehicle pollution, I have a long reply that I’ll suppress for now about the practical impact of individual/local environmental improvements on climate issues and the optimal cost/benefit or specific investments. TL;DR would be that whatever portion of the $2.5m 7-line cost that was directed towards climate goals was essentially a cost without practical benefit. (And in the long term, EVs are going to displace gas vehicles and the enviromental argument against cars will wither away–not, I hope, in the way the post-revolutionary state withered away in the USSR.)

        It’s certainly true that cars are more dangerous to others than cycling and walking, but we use them for benefits that they create, and those are not trivial. I think it’s great that Bloomington has people who highlight the costs of high auto use: they’re real costs. But in cases like the 7-line I see them prevailing when they should not have. I don’t expect any of the major benefits other than cyclist pleasure to materialize (I believe it will actually increase pollution, but insignificantly) and it has major costs ($2.5m + more accidents). Every cyclist’s increased pleasure will probably be balanced by a smaller increment of irritation among a much larger number of drivers.

        You’re wise to ask me to step up with my own plan, because traffic engineering is one of my vast areas of ignorance. But I’ll take a shot. Rather than a demo project like the 7-line, what I would like would be gradual reengineering of arterials to accommodate wider and more prominently marked bike lanes and multi-use paths without impeding cars, something the city seems to me to have been doing for years (W. 17th St. is a recent/current example, though people speed (hard to believe!); Country Club Rd. is a good candidate I drive frequently). Adding width and bike lanes to country roads in the fringe (a County task) when major repaving is scheduled would provide more and more recreational opportunities, and, natually, I think the Bloomington trail system is terrific and should be expanded (as it will be); I’m actually surprised how little biking I see when I walk or jog the trails. Safety measures like the no-turn-on-red signs and non-arterial speed humps (the ones cyclists can bypass) seem worth the money to me. When I’m driving I find all these things annoying, but I also know that safety is more important than my annoyance. These are all modest measures that can be budgeted when normal maintenance needs lower the incremental cost. Since I came here in the mid-’80s I think this routine effort to make the town worthy of “Breaking Away” has made a huge difference. When it comes to the car/cyclist dynamic, I think that’s the path to continue pursuing. (There’s an entirely different and probably more pressing conversation to be had about the car/pedestrian dynamic near major roads, an issue that your HTO posts first made me aware of.)

  5. Hey how much of the taxpayers money was spent by the Mayors office in this upgrade that was done during the pandemic when they wouldn’t allow public input. Or is this part of the $22 million dollars that they received from the federal administration.

  6. I’m interested in the recommendation of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission. The reported bases of the recommendation are that cyclists prefer not to have to stop (because of added physical exertion) and are using the route more because they don’t have to. Neither of those reasons has to do with safety.

    Pedestrians, of course, have to wait longer on average at intersections without four-way stops–particularly for a double-two-way-traffic experience like the 7-Line–and their safety is diminished. The report states that those people speaking at the BPSC were cyclists. I wonder who was representing the Bloomington Pedestrian Community.

  7. Why o we have professional staff, if we are goiing to inore their recommendations?

  8. My typing is horrible -Why do we have professional staff, if we are going to ignore their recommendations?

  9. I completely agree with Dr. Ryterband’s comments. I also support a stop sign at Dunn and making Indiana two-way. I also think the design of both bike lanes on one side of the road is very dangerous, because most people do not expect bikes from the right on the left lane.

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