5–4 Bloomington council vote: 3 more stops, not just Dunn, OK’d for reinstallation on 7-Line bicycle route

“Wow. Just wow.”

That was how Bloomington city council president Sue Sgambelluri summarized the contentious debate that had just concluded on the question of reinstalling stop signs at three intersections, along the route of the 7-Line separated bicycle lane.

The intersections in question—Morton, Washington, and Lincoln—were not included in the ordinance that city engineer Andrew Cibor had asked the council to approve at its Wednesday meeting.

What Cibor had requested was enactment of an ordinance to make permanent just the stop signs that have already been reinstalled at 7th and Dunn streets, based on a 180-day order that he had issued.

By the end of the meeting, the reinstallation of stop signs at a total of four intersections had been approved by the city council.

About five hours before the start of the meeting, an amendment, which had been put forward by councilmember Dave Rollo, was posted in a meeting packet addendum.  Rollo’s amendment added three more intersections where stop signs would be reinstalled on 7th Street—at Morton, Washington, and Lincoln streets.

The operative word is “reinstalled” because the stop signs that previously stood at the intersections were removed in connection with the construction of the 7-Line separated bicycle lane on 7th Street. That’s a two-way bicycle lane that runs from The B-Line Trail near Morton Street past Indiana Avenue to the Indiana University campus.

In concert with the separated bicycle lane, the removal of the stop signs was meant to make the corridor, without a legal requirement to stop at each intersection, a more attractive option for cyclists.

Rollo’s amendment passed 5–4 along a familiar split on the all-Democrat council, between four self-described “progressives” and the others. Voting against Rollo’s amendment were Steve Volan, Kate Rosenbarger, Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Matt Flaherty.

Volan said the impact of the reinstallation of the stop signs would be “just to ruin the 7-Line.”

The ordinance, as amended, passed with the same 5–4 split.

The historical backdrop to Wednesday’s meeting included the city council’s unanimous approval to remove stop signs at all of the planned 7-Line intersections. That was about three years ago, in August of 2020.

A year after that (two years ago) in October 2021, when the 7-Line was completed and opened, the stop signs were removed.

Earlier this year, city engineer Andrew Cibor reviewed the crash data along the corridor. Crashes were up compared to the pre-project numbers. He concluded that the stop signs should be reinstalled at all the places where they’d been removed—Morton, Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Dunn.

Cibor ticked through some key conclusions: Pre-project crash numbers in the 7th Street corridor averaged around 6.25 crashes per quarter; but after the project was built and stop signs were removed, crashes averaged around 10.2 per quarter. After the stop signs were reinstalled at Dunn and 7th, the average crashes per quarter dropped to around 6.5 per quarter.

Cibor told the council on Wednesday that if all the stop signs were reinstalled, he believed that crashes would likely be further reduced.

Another set of data presented by Cibor broke down crashes by intersection. The standards in the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) set a threshold for installation of stop signs at 5 crashes a year, if they were susceptible to correction by a stop sign.

Since 2022, the intersections at Dunn, Lincoln and Washington met that threshold for installation of a stop sign. The intersections at Morton and Grant did not. Rollo’s amendment did not reinstall a stop sign at Grant.

A proposed amendment to Rollo’s amendment, put forward by Isabel Piedmont-Smith, would have removed Morton from the mix, leaving a stop sign there. Piedmont-Smith’s proposal failed, on a vote that split along the same lines as the others.

When Cibor presented his findings  to the traffic commission and the bicycle and pedestrian safety commission earlier this year, both groups supported the idea that only the stop sign at Dunn Street should be reinstalled.

Both groups rejected Cibor’s recommendation that the other stop signs be removed. Cibor then used his authority under city code to impose a 180-day order to reinstall a stop sign only at 7th and Dunn streets. The 180-day order on the Dunn stop sign installation was set to expire on Oct. 9.

On Wednesday, Cibor said that the response from the traffic commission and the bicycle and pedestrian safety commission factored into his decision to ask the council to enact an ordinance that reinstalled a stop sign only at 7th and Dunn. Responding to a question from Piedmont-Smith, Cibor said the ordinance he had proposed was “very much reflecting and wanting to respect the opinions of our bicycle pedestrian safety commission and our traffic commission.”

Cibor also said his decision not to ask the council to reinstall stop signs at the other intersections was his effort to be “mindful of the reason the stop signs were removed in the first place—to help encourage and facilitate an east-west corridor.” Cibor also said there was merit in the crash data to consider reinstalling stops at other intersections besides Dunn and 7th streets.

Tackling the 7th and Dunn intersection now doesn’t preclude additional action again in the future, Cibor said.

Councilmember Kate Rosenbarger asked Cibor about Rollo’s proposal: “Does the administration recommend this amendment?” Cibor did not respond directly, but his answer added up to a no: “The administration brought forward an ordinance that we are advocating for.”

Rollo sketched out the reasoning behind his proposed amendment. For the whole stretch between Walnut and Dunn there are no stop signs that would allow for ease of pedestrian crossing, Rollo said.

Rollo also pointed to Cibor’s initial recommendation for reinstallation of all the stop signs that had been removed.

Rollo summed up by saying, “My principle aim is for safe pedestrian crossing, but it also addresses the crash hazard at Washington and Lincoln.” Rollo said he added Morton Street, because of the heavy pedestrian uses, especially during events like the city farmers market. Rollo added “It’s also been requested by a number of constituents.”

Over the course of the deliberations, it emerged that among those who had advocated for reinstallation of stop signs at Morton was  someone Rollo described as “a judge who asked that Morton be a priority because of court personnel that needed to cross at that intersection.”

Speaking from the public mic on the Zoom platform against the reinstallation of stop signs at Lincoln and Washington was Hopi Stosberg, who is the Democratic Party nominee for District 3 city council on the Nov. 7 ballot. She’s competing with Republican Brett Heinisch for that seat.

Stosberg pointed to the reasoning used by the bicycle and pedestrian safety commission in rejecting the engineer’s recommendation at those two intersections—they’re in the middle of a hill. Stopping causes bicyclists to lose momentum.

As for the Morton Street intersection, Stosberg said, “Honestly I have no concern with reinstituting a stop sign at Morton… because Morton is not in the middle of a hill.” Stosberg added, “And I do agree anecdotally that that intersection does get, especially on farmers market days, really dicey with cars.”

During public commentary, Pauly Tarricone spoke against Rollo’s amendment, because it undercuts the goal of promoting cycling as a transportation option. Tarricone serves on the bicycle and pedestrian safety commission. Also speaking during public commentary against Rollo’s amendment was Ben Fulton.

Rollo’s mention of constituents drew a sharp question from councilmember Steve Volan: “Well, how many constituents would you say caused you to create this amendment?”

Rollo replied, “Oh, probably less than 10.” Rollo added that he and councilmember Susan Sandberg, who hold joint constituent meetings, had heard from older residents that crossing 7th Street is a challenge without stop signs.

There’s a bit of history that forms the backdrop of the exchange between Rollo and Volan. Rollo represents District 4. Volan represents District 6. They have both served on the council for about 20 years. The result of redistricting put both of them in District 4 for this year’s city council elections. Rather than face Rollo, Volan ran for one of the three at-large seats and came sixth in a Democratic Party primary field of seven. Rollo will return to the council in 2024, but Volan will not.

Volan responded to Rollo by saying, “Last I checked, the 7-Line was in District 6. I’ve had no constituent complaints about it.” Volan then drew into the discussion a traffic calming project in Rollo’s district. He asked Rollo: “If your constituents can complain about the 7-Line, why is it that people outside of the Hawthorne-Weatherstone Greenway shouldn’t be able to complain about that green space?”

Volan called Rollo’s proposal “an amendment inspired entirely by constituents who are not from District 6… What should I think?”

Later in the meeting, Volan pointed to the fact that no one from the public had spoken in support of Rollo’s amendment. “I think that the utter lack of testimony from anyone other than councilmembers for this amendment, and the testimony by those who are against this amendment, illustrate that those who had supported are out of step with Bloomington, out of step with the pedestrians and bicyclists who benefit from this.”

Volan added, “To say that restoring the stop signs is for the sake of pedestrians crossing is, I find, to be an unfortunate excuse for continuing to allow cars to cross.”

Flaherty responded to Volan by cautioning against drawing any conclusions based on who speaks at public commentary: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we can draw any conclusions from who shows up and doesn’t at a meeting necessarily, and who’s able to weigh in.”

Flaherty continued, “There are all sorts of barriers to doing so.” Flaherty added, “And I certainly believe my colleagues who support this amendment…who they’ve heard from, and what they think about it. I respect that opinion. I think it’s fine.”

Flaherty landed on the side of the ordinance as proposed by Cibor, which would authorize the permanent reinstallation of stop signs just at the one intersection of Dunn and 7th Street.

Councilmember Jim Sims responded to Volan’s characterization of those who supported Rollo’s amendment (as Sims did) as “out of step.” Sims did not think it was appropriate to characterize a council colleague as “out of step” just because they have a difference of opinion.

Councilmember Kate Rosenbarger gave commentary along the lines of Volan’s “out of step” remark by citing the remarks of an unnamed councilmember who had sought reelection this year, but had not won in their primary. That councilmember had said, “We’ve done enough for bike and ped,” according to Rosenbarger. “I feel like the voters disagreed with that,” Rosenbarger said.

Redistricting put Rosenbarger and Sgambelluri both in District 2. Rosenbarger prevailed in that primary race between the two incumbents.

Rosenbarger noted that there would be a new city council taking office in 2024. Five of nine will be new. Rosenbarger guessed there would be priorities on the new council that are different from the current council.

Volan picked up on the theme of the next council, even though he will not be a part of it. About that night’s vote, Volan said, “I’m expecting a majority is going to rule to put the stop signs back.” But he added, “I’m also expecting that come 2024, a majority is going to rule to undo it.”

Volan said he expects the next council to undo the reinstallation of stop signs on 7th Street because “It’s clear that it’s reactionary. It’s clear that the data support leaving the design as it is.” Volan continued, “And it’s clear that my colleagues have not thought enough about putting stop signs in other places, or stopping cars in other places. They’re only focused on the 7-Line.”

Volan then responded to remarks from councilmember Susan Sandberg who had earlier said, “Data is important. Yes, it is. But so are the feelings of the people who put you in office—the people who are expecting you to fight for them.”

Volan said, “We should not let people’s feelings be the final—or why bother to put together a transportation plan? Why bother to have a comprehensive plan, if we’re just going to shrug it off and ignore it?”

Volan continued in a sarcastic vein: “Let’s just rule everything by anecdote. Well, if the people I talked to at the farmers market feel like maybe it’s not working, maybe I don’t really care about the expertise of our chief engineer. What are his qualifications anyway? What does he know? My feelings are what matter.”

20 thoughts on “5–4 Bloomington council vote: 3 more stops, not just Dunn, OK’d for reinstallation on 7-Line bicycle route

  1. i was skeptical of whether the 7-line would be useful to me personally, because i am exactly the sort of cyclist who is fairly comfortable going fast enough to share a lane with cars, and because 7th street wasn’t part of any of my usual trips. but the experience of cycling up the hill from dunn to walnut converted me. there’s no need to go fast to mitigate driver aggression, and no need to slow down for stop signs. i can go the natural speed for my energy level, without stress. it’s really a good experience for me and i use it often. when i’m westbound from campus or south of campus, i favor it over other routes.

    which shouldn’t really be surprising, because the purpose of the 7-line is to make an attractive facility for cyclists. it should attract us. it should service us. the conservatives on the council act like making something good for cyclists shouldn’t be a goal at all, but then why build it?

    those stop signs at lincon and washington will likely take away the benefit for me. on top of that, a lot of people (drivers and cyclists) will chose to ignore those stop signs. regarding the Sheridan & Maxwell stop sign, engineer Cibor pointed out that when stop signs are perceived to be excessive, they are ignored and there is a spillover effect to other traffic control devices.

    i can’t help noting that they spent roughly 4 times as much money on the trades district parking garage — which still sits empty! — but the reactionaries on the council aren’t voting to destroy that parking garage. they hate a bike lane but love parking garages.

    i’ve crossed 7th street as a pedestrian since the 7-line was installed, and i see pedestrians doing it often. it’s usually a good experience. drivers and cyclists are both relatively willing to yield, especially compared to most other streets in town. i have an easier time getting drivers to yield when crossing 7th street at Grant than when crossing 8th street at Rogers, even though they have a stop sign on 8th street!

    the design of the 7-line is centered around giving drivers the expectation that they will have to go slowly and that they may have to stop often, such as to accomodate someone slowing for a turn off of 7th street. the design works well so long as drivers go the obvious design speed, which is 20mph.

    but the city has given up on achieving that travel speed in reality. the engineering department is too timid to even recommend putting up 20mph speed limit signs. if we cannot achieve actual 20mph travel speed goals this close to downtown and campus then we are simply giving up. people are dying all over the city from our unwillingness to control travel speeds. winning this battle against speeding is a moral imperative. the engineering department is letting us down, and so is the council.

    oh and! the sheriff’s deputies never stop at the stop sign where the b-line crosses 7th street. no part of local government seems to care about the bloodshed. they’d rather be bad drivers than save lives and prevent injuries. the imorality is scandalous, in my opinion. the right thing here isn’t subtle. we need to reduce speeds.

    1. Nice points Greg! Very curious if there are data available from the City showing that traffic enforcement is actually still a thing? Does BPD actually ticket speeders, red light runners, etc.? Seems like a fairly easy revenue creator.

    2. A better idea,bulldoze the intire bike lanes up and have a nice wide street in this town for once.

  2. The council is diminishing the work of the Bike/Ped and Traffic Commission. Why have these commissions or professional experts on staff if the council ignores their expertise

    1. “Earlier this year, c̲i̲t̲y̲ ̲e̲n̲g̲i̲n̲e̲e̲r̲ ̲A̲n̲d̲r̲e̲w̲ ̲C̲i̲b̲o̲r̲ reviewed the crash data along the corridor. Crashes were up compared to the pre-project numbers. H̲e̲ ̲c̲o̲n̲c̲l̲u̲d̲e̲d̲ ̲t̲h̲a̲t̲ ̲t̲h̲e̲ ̲s̲t̲o̲p̲ ̲s̲i̲g̲n̲s̲ ̲s̲h̲o̲u̲l̲d̲ ̲b̲e̲ ̲r̲e̲i̲n̲s̲t̲a̲l̲l̲e̲d̲ ̲a̲t̲ ̲a̲l̲l̲ ̲t̲h̲e̲ ̲p̲l̲a̲c̲e̲s̲ ̲w̲h̲e̲r̲e̲ ̲t̲h̲e̲y̲’̲d̲ ̲b̲e̲e̲n̲ ̲r̲e̲m̲o̲v̲e̲d̲—̲M̲o̲r̲t̲o̲n̲,̲ ̲W̲a̲s̲h̲i̲n̲g̲t̲o̲n̲,̲ ̲L̲i̲n̲c̲o̲l̲n̲,̲ ̲G̲r̲a̲n̲t̲,̲ ̲a̲n̲d̲ ̲D̲u̲n̲n̲

  3. I’ve had to stop at a green light because these stupid students are too busy to pay attention to the traffic flow. I now have to pay attention to look if they are wearing their ears buds. I’m retired from IUCS and this never happened until they opened Indiana University. It’s not my fault if they don’t pay attention to what they’re doing. This is a very dangerous situation and needs to be addressed.

    1. there’s something i’m not understanding about your comment, so i’m sorry that i’m way off the mark but you reminded me of something.

      there are lots of traffic lights around town where there is a ‘red hand’ to say that pedestrians should not walk, but there is no ‘white walk’ signal to tell pedestrians when it is their turn. the signal is broken and never gives pedestrians a turn. and many times i have seen pedestrians wait through the red walk for a cycle before they figure out what is happening, and when they do this, they almost always walk when it isn’t their turn. they’ve already been waiting for 30 seconds or more before they figure out the signal is broken, and by that point they simply don’t care about the signal anymore…they just cross.

  4. With all due respect to Council Member Volan, the 7-Line has ruined itself.

    I invite all Council Members, current and to be elected, to visit the 7th and Morton intersection during a weekday noon hour. What you’ll see are pedestrians — downtown City, County and other employees, and others — struggling to cross 7th Street against a flow of unimpeded motor vehicles, many traveling over the speed limit. What you’re not likely to see is any single bicyclist using the 7-Line, or coming off the B-Line at its near intersection.

    It’s time for all to work in earnest to insure the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians, and to encourage these modes over motor vehicles. This includes the Bike and Ped Commission, and includes acknowledging the ridiculousness of the 7-Line as implemented.

    The Old Northwest neighborhood (in District 6) is one of the most walked and biked neighborhoods in all of Bloomington. The 7-Line has disrupted this, as now bicyclists must cross two-way motor traffic to turn off the 7-Line to the north. Removal of the stops signs has made the 7-Line a motor speedway and done nothing for bicyclists (the real ones in the neighborhood, or the imaginary ones coming off the B-Line to IU) but put them at increased risk.

    Thank you to Council Member Rollo and others for their efforts to prioritize pedestrians.

      1. Yes, there is, but why would that matter? Cars have the right-of-way at crosswalks unless a pedestrian is already in the crosswalk. Too steady a stream of motor vehicle traffic for a pedestrian to step out. Really, go down and take a look.

  5. Volan responded to Rollo by saying, “Last I checked, the 7-Line was in District 6. I’ve had no constituent complaints about it.”

    Volan doesn’t hold constituent meetings, which is probably appropriate as District Six voters are largely politically disengaged students who don’t participate in the local political process and likely wouldn’t attend (or offer feedback through any other mechanism, for that matter).

    I am guessing, due to changes in the District Six map, that Volan’s likely replacement will be elected with even fewer than the seventy-some votes Volan received last time he was elected.

    So it would not be surprising if Volan hasn’t heard complaints. And would he tell us if he had?

    Meanwhile, at constituent meetings for other council members problems with the 7-Line are a frequent subject, letters on the topic appear in the Herald-Times and the H-T welcome back issue recommended avoiding the 7-Line altogether, a conclusion many pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists reached independently.

    Last time I checked, when Volan ran in a primary that required more than 70 votes for victory he failed. His current term expires December 31, 2023. This bodes well for 2024.

    1. Volan is joining the exodus that includes Sandberg, Sims, Sgambelluri, and Smith. (Apparently we don’t approve of that end of the alphabet). It certainly will be a different council next year.

  6. This is emblematic of the dysfunction that was manifest in the motivation to oust most of the council in the May primary and crush the mayor-endorsed candidate. When you can’t get the “small stuff” right, the optics are that the council is a bag of buffoons when truly important decisions must be made.

    Waffling further proves the stunning over-think and lack of leadership in the council. Yeah, No Right Turns. 25mph everywhere. Let’s remove half of the lanes in major thoroughfares because traffic is getting lighter.

    Sure, let’s battle a realtor to get a bigger parking garage at a small sum of money. And those parking meters will actually spawn business downtown because of erudite and timely city parking planning!

    Don’t worry about the zoning that had led to Soviet-era student housing monstrosities. After all, the university is the city’s oil well, an endless fountain of dough for various real estate management companies to nest in, creating some of the most profitable locations for retailers in their portfolios.

    Let’s put up an emblematic BLOOMINGTON sign for millions, whilst sweeping the unhoused problem with a regular broom.

    The new mayor and CC members have a huge problem on their hands. I wish them the strength, perseverance and vision to be energized in their mission. The current regime has proven almost totally dysfunctional.

    1. Very well said!

      Kudos to Juan for not talking about this fact publicly during his battle with the city: according to records i looked up at the time, he paid(I think) $620k for the building. The city only offered him $580k! They expected him to take a $40k loss AND tried to use eminent domain to do so. So shameful.

  7. A dear friend was in a car crash on 7th after this system was installed. Her car was totaled and she had a concussion. The officer who came said the main cause was the speed of the other vehicle on 7th. She does not speak up about this. Gee, does the nasty tone, accusatory responses of some members of city council have anything to do with her silence? No one I know wants to cross 7th, including a 27 years old biker who told me that personally. Many peopleI I know try and drive around it and avoid 7th street completely. THINK OF THE GASOLINE that was wasted avoiding this street. And, no one I know wants to speak before city council, either, because speakers are often attacked and ridiculed. Bloomington government has changed… and not for the betterment of many of its citizens. A very sad day…

  8. Sometimes I wish they would install a Tylenol dispenser in Council Chambers for the use of the public who attend these meetings.

  9. More crazy talk from Council Member Volan in today’s Herald/Times:

    “Volan said the lack of public comments supporting Rollo’s plan indicated supporters of his amendment were ‘out of step with Bloomington.’ He accused Rollo and his supporters of using pedestrian safety as an ‘unfortunate excuse for continuing to allow cars to cross’ in the city’s sole example of a successful protected bike lane.”

    In this congested neighborhood, with mostly one-way streets and a barricaded Kirkwood, nothing draws cars more than a stopless drag strip. In this and other ways, the 7-Line favors motor vehicles by it’s design.

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