Bikes on the B-Line

There have been a number of letters to the editor lately concerning bikes on the B-Line, and truth to tell, it is a difficult set of laws that must be perused to fully understand the proper procedures.

This where most of the confusion exists:

Bikes must stop/yield at the B-Line crossings.

TRUE! There are Stop signs as each crossing, and text that declares “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop”. These signs are for bikers only, but some people do not see them, or ignore them. Many bikers seem to think they are pedestrians, but they are not. In fact they are vehicles according to state law (IC 9-21-11-2) On the B-Line confusion seems to be that many people believe that motor vehicles should stop for both pedestrians and bikes when on the trail, but this is just not case in Indiana. If a pedestrian is on a curb at an intersection, then “…a person who drives a vehicle shall yield the right­ of­ way, slowing down or stopping if necessary to yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching closely from the opposite half of the roadway. (IC 9-­2-1­8-­36)”

This sentence contains a lot of info. It may seem a bit strange, but motor vehicle operators are required to slow down or stop only once a person has stepped into a crosswalk on the side of the street on which the car is traveling. Once you closely approach the other half of the street (this is not an exact distance in this code), then cars are required to yield or stop. This not true for bikers, unless they dismount and walk their bikes across the street, as then they are pedestrians.

On the B-Line, I most often see cars stopping for pedestrians and bikers who are waiting to cross. This is great, Hoosier Hospitality at its best! However, it is not required by law unless the pedestrian has entered the crosswalk, so there is no reason to become annoyed or angry that people are not stopping for you. Better to take a deep breath and enjoy the beauty of life in the open air, and pity those stuck in their iron cages.

Bikers are not pedestrians, they are considered non-motorized vehicles, and should stop at the B-line crossings, and wait for traffic to clear. Even if you poke your wheel into the street, hoping the cars will stop, you could be cited for obstructing traffic, and if you were hit, you would be at fault.

Even pedestrians must be careful about stepping out into the street: “A pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. (IC 9-21-17-5)

So pedestrians should not jump in front of moving motor vehicles! This seems rather self evident, but this codifies the concept. If you do this, the police can (and have in the past), follow the ambulance to the hospital, and issue you a citation.

All this being true, there is still this requirement for vehicle drivers:

Sec. 37. Notwithstanding other provisions of this article or a local ordinance, a person who drives a vehicle shall do the following:

  1. Exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian or a person propelling a human powered vehicle, giving an audible signal when necessary.
  2. Exercise proper caution upon observing a child or an obviously confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated person.

Traffic control signals not in operation

So according to state law, cars do not have to stop for pedestrians unless they are in the crosswalk. This is not the case in all states, but it is here in Indiana, as well as Vermont and Florida. So it is polite to stop your car for pedestrians at the B-Line crossings, but it is not mandatory, it is not law.

Roadways; rights and duties (for bicyclists)
Sec. 2. A person riding a bicycle or operating a Class B motor driven cycle upon a roadway has all the rights and duties under this article that are applicable to a person who drives a vehicle…

On the B-Line, there are stop signs not on the roadway, but on the B-Line itself, and these are meant not for the pedestrians, but rather for the bikers. The signs on the road read “Cars must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk”, the functional important parts being “pedestrians” “yield”, and “in the crosswalk”, (not on the sidewalk).

To say the least, this is not clear to most users, but it is the case. If you were to ride out into the intersection without first stopping (blow through the crossing) and get hit, you would be cited for the infraction, not the motorist, even if they had time to stop. Unfortunately that is the law, and the tradition; police often see themselves as the guardians of vehicular traffic, and like many motorists, can see pedestrians and bikers as impediments to motorized traffic, rather than seeing them as traffic itself. Of course we are all traffic, people trying to get from one place to another, but the culture is currently weighted to favor motorists. We are trying to change this balance, and in fact Bloomington has one of the highest percentage of non-motorized commuters in the US, nearly 5%.

Be careful out there!

Safe bike paths in Bloomington?

car tracks on bike lane800I know that separated bike paths are a great idea, it certainly makes biking feel safer, in most cases. But as I was riding to Griffy Lake the other day, I noticed that car drivers can and do make some mistakes that threaten even well separated bike paths. This picture was taken on Old 37, just a hundred yards from the intersection of Cascades and 4 lane Walnut not far from Griffy Dam. The sign says 30 MPH, but the motorist who ran into it, and onto the bike path must have been going much faster.

Max Zorn's stoplights

Family’s wrongful death lawsuit against city dismissed
Driver agrees to settle suit over car accident that killed IU professor
By Kurt Van der Dussen

November 29, 1995
A wrongful death lawsuit filed in November 1994 by the estate of Indiana University professor Max Zorn against the city of Bloomington and against the driver who struck Zorn two years ago has been dismissed.

Michael Spencer, attorney for the Zorn estate, said Tuesday – the second anniversary of the accident – that the claim against driver Robert E. Jerrels was dismissed after he agreed to an undisclosed settlement of the case, while the claims of liability against the city were dismissed entirely.

Zorn, an 86-year-old mathematics professor emeritus, was crossing East Third Street on his way home to dinner around twilight on Nov. 28, 1992, when he was struck and seriously injured by a car driven by Jerrels, whose current residence is unknown.

Zorn underwent extended hospitalization for a broken arm and leg and a chipped pelvis. He died on March 9, 1993, of congestive heart failure in connection with his injuries.

The accident dramatized the dangers both of walking and driving along East Third Street, which combines heavy traffic and thousands of pedestrian crossings to and from the IU campus.

Zorn’s accident led to a public outcry to provide greater protection for pedestrians, which led to a vote by the Bloomington City Council a month after Zorn’s death to install traffic signals on East Third at Hawthorne Drive and Woodlawn Avenue.

In November 1994, Zorn’s estate by attorney Spencer and Elizabeth Zorn filed suit against Jerrels for negligence in hitting Zorn and against the city for not having had the traffic lights in place before the accident.

The lawsuit alleged that Jerrels negligently exceeded the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit along East Third, failed to control his car and failed to avoid a pedestrian in a clearly marked crosswalk.

As for the city, the lawsuit alleged the city had “concrete knowledge” prior to the accident that East Third was frequently crossed by pedestrians and that drivers regularly exceeded the speed limit, thereby causing “severe danger” to pedestrians.

The city denied any liability.

The lawsuit sought compensatory damages from the city and from Jerrels for Zorn’s injuries, pain, major medical costs and death and for the emotional and financial losses those imposed for Zorn’s widow, Alice C. Zorn.

Copyright: 1995

US DOT Bike-Ped Guidelines

Ray LaHood, the new Secretary of Transportation, released these new guidelines, really remarkable stuff. It’s hard for me to believe he and I are on the same page in regards to this new policy, but tis true.

United States Department of Transportation
Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation
Regulations and Recommendations
Signed on March 11, 2010 and announced March 15, 2010

Note: Also available on the United States Department of Transportation Website


The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is providing this Policy Statement to reflect the Department’s support for the development of fully integrated active transportation networks. The establishment of well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities, and their design should be a part of Federal-aid project developments. Walking and bicycling foster safer, more livable, family-friendly communities; promote physical activity and health; and reduce vehicle emissions and fuel use. Legislation and regulations exist that require inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian policies and projects into transportation plans and project development.

Accordingly, transportation agencies should plan, fund, and implement improvements to their walking and bicycling networks, including linkages to transit. In addition, DOT encourages transportation agencies to go beyond the minimum requirements, and proactively provide convenient, safe, and context-sensitive facilities that foster increased use by bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities, and utilize universal design characteristics when appropriate.

Transportation programs and facilities should accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive, and people who choose not to drive.

Policy Statement

The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.


This policy is based on various sections in the United States Code (U.S.C.) and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in Title 23—Highways, Title 49—Transportation, and Title 42—The Public Health and Welfare. These sections, provided in the Appendix, describe how bicyclists and pedestrians of all abilities should be involved throughout the planning process, should not be adversely affected by other transportation projects, and should be able to track annual obligations and expenditures on nonmotorized transportation facilities.

Recommended Actions

The DOT encourages States, local governments, professional associations, community organizations, public transportation agencies, and other government agencies, to adopt similar policy statements on bicycle and pedestrian accommodation as an indication of their commitment to accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians as an integral element of the transportation system. In support of this commitment, transportation agencies and local communities should go beyond minimum design standards and requirements to create safe, attractive, sustainable, accessible, and convenient bicycling and walking networks. Such actions should include:

  • Considering walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes: The primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods. Walking and bicycling are efficient transportation modes for most short trips and, where convenient intermodal systems exist, these nonmotorized trips can easily be linked with transit to significantly increase trip distance. Because of the benefits they provide, transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes. Walking and bicycling should not be an afterthought in roadway design.
  • Ensuring that there are transportation choices for people of all ages and abilities, especially children: Pedestrian and bicycle facilities should meet accessibility requirements and provide safe, convenient, and interconnected transportation networks. For example, children should have safe and convenient options for walking or bicycling to school and parks. People who cannot or prefer not to drive should have safe and efficient transportation choices.
  • Going beyond minimum design standards: Transportation agencies are encouraged, when possible, to avoid designing walking and bicycling facilities to the minimum standards. For example, shared-use paths that have been designed to minimum width requirements will need retrofits as more people use them. It is more effective to plan for increased usage than to retrofit an older facility.
  • Planning projects for the long-term should anticipate likely future demand for bicycling and walking facilities and not preclude the provision of future improvements.
  • Integrating bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on new, rehabilitated, and limited-access bridges: DOT encourages bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on bridge projects including facilities on limited-access bridges with connections to streets or paths.
  • Collecting data on walking and biking trips: The best way to improve transportation networks for any mode is to collect and analyze trip data to optimize investments. Walking and bicycling trip data for many communities are lacking. This data gap can be overcome by establishing routine collection of nonmotorized trip information. Communities that routinely collect walking and bicycling data are able to track trends and prioritize investments to ensure the success of new facilities. These data are also valuable in linking walking and bicycling with transit.
  • Setting mode share targets for walking and bicycling and tracking them over time: A byproduct of improved data collection is that communities can establish targets for increasing the percentage of trips made by walking and bicycling.
  • Removing snow from sidewalks and shared-use paths: Current maintenance provisions require pedestrian facilities built with Federal funds to be maintained in the same manner as other roadway assets. State Agencies have generally established levels of service on various routes especially as related to snow and ice events.
  • Improving nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects: Many transportation agencies spend most of their transportation funding on maintenance rather than on constructing new facilities. Transportation agencies should find ways to make facility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists during resurfacing and other maintenance projects.


Increased commitment to and investment in bicycle facilities and walking networks can help meet goals for cleaner, healthier air; less congested roadways; and more livable, safe, cost-efficient communities. Walking and bicycling provide low-cost mobility options that place fewer demands on local roads and highways. DOT recognizes that safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities may look different depending on the context — appropriate facilities in a rural community may be different from a dense, urban area. However, regardless of regional, climate, and population density differences, it is important that pedestrian and bicycle facilities be integrated into transportation systems. While DOT leads the effort to provide safe and convenient accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists, success will ultimately depend on transportation agencies across the country embracing and implementing this policy.

Ray LaHood, United States Secretary of Transportation

Bike-Ped Safety and Indiana University, 2009


There has been are rash of injuries to peds and bikers, and even death, on the streets of Bloomington recently. I’ve been very concerned about this in that over the years many of my friends have been hurt, and at times I’ve come close. In every instance of person/car collisions, the car always wins. Many folks don’t understand they are driving a deadly weapon, and many peds and bikers don’t see the danger of a ton of steel moving at 30 mph, it’s just everyday life for most of us.

IDS Articles: Oct. 12 | Oct 13 | Oct 14

This week the IDS ran a three part series about pedestrian and bike safety on campus. The links are above, I was quoted in the second 2 articles. I’ve been communicating with officials at both the university and the city, and IMHO, up till now, there has been a failure to communicate.

The university has been defending a policy that discourages the use of painted crosswalks, I’ve been defending the opposite position. They claim that the IC (Indiana Code) is not sufficient to protect pedestrians, and to quote Larry MacIntyre in the IDS on Sept 11: “MacIntyre said, however, that under Indiana law, students do not have the right-of-way at crosswalks. He said cars only have to stop at crosswalks with flashing yellow lights.”

This was so egregous a claim that I wrote him a series of emails trying to point out the errors in his logic. He cited IUPD and John Applegate as the source for his interpretation of the laws,and it has been claimed that city police and Public Works were on board with this regressive interpretation. I’ve copied the relevant code below, what do you think? Do peds have right-of-way while in a marked (or unmarked) crosswalk?

IC 9-21-8-36 says it all, and few from IU have acknowledged its relevance, or that it even exists.

IC 9-21-8-36
Sec. 36. Except as provided in IC 9-21-17-8, when traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation, a person who drives a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if necessary to yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching closely from the opposite half of the roadway.
 As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

This next one is written a bit backwards, It seems to be a simple anti-jaywalking provision, but it also implies that if you are in a crosswalk, you have right-of-way.

IC 9-21-17-7
Crossing roadway at point not marked as a crosswalk; yield of right-of-way to traffic
Sec. 7. A pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.

Here is the one that IU used to justify its policy, claiming that peds don’t have rights in crosswalks unless signalized. This claim makes no sense at all to me. Can you make the words below say that peds don’t have right of way in crosswalks unless they are signalized? Here is exactly what I was told:

“IC 9-21-17-2 is interpreted to mean pedestrians do not have the right of way in crosswalks unless the crosswalk is signalized (usually at an intersection). This interpretation is shared by the Director of Public Works, the Chief of the Bloomington Police, and a member of the IUPD who are all on the task force.”

This is scary as it seems the police are interpreting the law to suit policy. They must not have not read the law, to offer the words below as proof that peds don’t have right-of-way when IC 9-21-8-36 is very clear they do.

IC 9-21-17-2
“Walk” and “don’t walk” signals
Sec. 2. Whenever special pedestrian control signals exhibiting the words “walk” or “don’t walk” are in place, the signals must indicate as follows:
(1) Flashing or steady “walk” means a pedestrian facing the signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and a person who drives a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to the pedestrian.
(2) Flashing or steady “don’t walk” means a pedestrian may not start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal. A pedestrian who has partially completed crossing on the “walk” signal shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety island while the “don’t walk” signal is showing.

I’m waiting to hear back from a number of folks, no one from IU has yet acknowledged IC 9-21-8-36, or tried to explain it away, so it is up in the air for now. More to come!

Bike safety interview on WTTS

Mitch riding in Dunn Woods
Mitch riding in Dunn Woods

MItch’s WTTS Interview, Aug. 2009

Here is an interview I did on WTTS about bike safety issues in Bloomington. They asked me as a member of the Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission, but I did not speak officially for the group, but for myself as a concerned biker/ped.

I know I sound like Oscar the Grouch, but just today another pedestrian was killed while crossing the street, it was reported his shoes flew 40 feet. We just can’t keep giving cars the best parts of our lives, the streets should belong to the people, not the oil/gas/car/truck subculture.

New bike racks in Bloomington!

For years the Bike-Ped commission has been recommending (and getting) more bike racks as a way to encourage bike use in Bloomington, and as soon as they are installed, they fill up daily. There is just not that much space left on the sidewalk, and so the city has installed on street bike parking in two locations. We have been recommending this idea (replacing car parking with bike parking) for years to little avail. Now thanks to the work Bob Costello, owner of the Laughing Planet, the city has responded and installed on-street parking in two locations, in front of Soma and the Uptown/Trojan Horse.

They took one parking space, and made room for 10 bikes to park. The business owners saw the mathematical logic in this trade-off. Most car trips carry 2 or less people. Ten minus two equals eight more people able to park close their businesses. This makes great sense for the downtown merchants, perhaps others will see the advantage of increased bike parking in the downtown area.

On-street bike parking in front of Soma
On-street bike parking in front of Soma

On-street bike parking in front of the Uptown
On-street bike parking in front of the Uptown

Here’s Boyce’s blog about the new spaces:

IU Master Plan Bike-Ped Edition

IU has been developing a new Master Plan for Bloomington and Indianapolis, and the Master Planner, Smithgroup JJR, created a Powerpoint file of their recommendations to the Board of Trustees on Feb. 19, 2009. I made a PDF of this file and edited out the stuff that did not relate to bike-ped or Bloomington.

I left in more than I might, views of campus, buildings, and roads, but better more than less, I figured.

To download and save rather than open in your browser, right click (Windows) or Ctl-Click (Mac) to “Save link as” or “Download Linked File”. Or you can click on the link or picture, and it should open in your browser.

The file is about 16 megs and can be downloaded here:

IU Master Plan, Bike-Ped Edition

IU Master Plan

Bike Ped Meeting-April 21, 2008

At the Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission meeting today, we looked at plans for a new apartment building at 10th and Morton Streets. It is big enough that the builders are required to have covered bike parking. This means that residents will be able to park their bikes in the building with dedicated rooms close to an entrance.

I thanked Public Works for getting the Polly Grimshaw trail cleaned up, at the last meeting I complained that it was a mess, which it was with leaves and vines and dirt making it dangerous.

Joe Fish in City Planning is working on pedestrian counts and taking pictures at the Bypass and Third St. intersection. This is very hard to navigate, and it will get worse with INDOT’s plans to “upgrade” the intersection with seven lanes of traffic engineered for 45 mph speeds.

I also noted and had confirmed that the speed limit through Cascades Park has been newly signed at 20 mph! This is great, I have even noticed cars not passing me going downhill because we were both doing the speed limit, I love it. This is because the road runs adjacent to the park, and in theory, this should have been the case in the past, but was not. Is the speed limit 20 mph around Bryan Park? I’ll have to check.

About bikers and safety

As some of you may know, I have been chair of the Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission for a number of years. We look at building plans and recommend bike/ped amenities for new projects, we review traffic calming applications from neighborhoods, make suggestions as how to improve the bike/ped infrastructure. At the top of the list for me is safety, I have been worried for years about the bad attitudes of both bikers and motorists, everyone is alway such a hurry that common courtesy and traffic laws are run over.

I just got an email from an IU employee commutes to Bloomington, and is worried about hitting a reckless biker, and following is my quickly written reply.

Sent: Monday, April 14, 2008 12:18 PM
To: ‘’
Subject: Bicyclist

I am not a resident of Bloomington but commute Monday through Friday to work at IU. I would like to make a suggestion. It is my understanding that bicyclist are required to obey traffic rules however stopping at four way stops and red lights seem to be laws some bicycle feel exempt from. Many times I have witnessed bicyclist go straight through four way stops, often endangering drivers who are obeying the laws. My fear is that one day I may hit or injure one of the bicyclist or even injure myself trying to avoid hitting them. Since the Bloomington business area contains many stops perhaps this could be a topic of concern.

I share your concern. I do not drive, and I do bike everywhere. Bikers who behave as you describe seem to be the norm, or at least a significant percentage of riders. When I did drive, I experienced the scenario you mention, where a bike rider going down hill ignored a stop sign (and he was coming from out of the setting sun), and he ended up on my hood. I assure you, his vehicle was in much worse shape than mine from the encounter. He apologized and carried his broken bike home.

Because so many cyclists do bust through stop signs, mmany motorists seem shocked when I actually slow down and stop at interesections. They wave me on, even if it is clearly their right of way, but I never accept. I just want everyone to obey the rules, as do you.

But when we have asked (I’m chair of the Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission) for more enforcement, we found that is just not possible according to the chief of police, they djust o not have the resources.

Think of how many car drivers just slow down at stop signs, who sneak around corners with out stopping, who ignore “No right turn on red” signs, and who speed in town. The police have told us that traffic enforcement is a priority, but they do not focus on bikes. Remember a car can be a deadly weapon, can be used for homicide, it is 2 tons of heavy metal, but a careless rude biker will most likely hurt only themselves. This is not my position necessarily, but it is how the police prioritize. Our commission reviews all traffic calming requests that neigborhoods submit, and there are always neighborhoods asking. They know that enforcement does not stop speeding, and that is why the Feds supply money for traffic calming. We have engineered our streets for cars, and people are left to walk and ride bikes on the fringes. I don’t see this as sustainable, and I look favorably at most traffic calming projects.

I have repeatedly asked for more education for bicyclists, and more enforcement from police. Enforcement could be useful tool in educating our always changing poplulation of bikers, but as I mention, this is not on the agenda at this time. So education must be the keystone of any attempt to change the behavior of reckless bikers (and motorists).

There are thousands of new people who come to Bloomington from around the country and around the world each year, and they do not have the information to bike safely in our city. Many do not know that bikes are to follow the automotive traffic laws, and they are prone to dangerous mistakes (that seem safe) like riding against traffic and on sidwalks, which aer the two most statistically dangerous things you can do on a bike. IU should be involved, so should the city. If you have any suggestions, (you mention them, but I don’t really see any) let me know. I tend to holler at those who are being foolish, and occasionally straighten someone out, but not often.