INDIANAPOLIS — City-County councilors in Indianapolis are proposing an update to a decade-old ordinance trying to make streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.
The “Complete Streets,” created in 2012, was designed to ensure the city had a policy in place to consider the needs of all people when designing or redesigning city streets.
“It’s a future looking policy aimed at making the city a safer place for all users of the streets,” said City-County Councilor John Barth.
Barth was one of the original sponsors of the ordinance, along with Councilor Maggie Lewis.
“A dad pushing a baby carriage down the street, he’ll need to have a street that works for him just as much as a bicyclist or anyone else,” Barth said.
Ben Easley with the Indianapolis Department of Public Works said the ordinance is like a checklist for project managers.
“It really is a framework for making decisions rather than any other prescribed design elements,” Easley said.
Now, Lewis and Barth are proposing updates to the Complete Streets ordinance as we see a local and nationwide rise in deadly car crashes involving pedestrians.
“There’s been an increase in speeding, racing and reckless driving and that has resulted in a negative impact with pedestrians and cyclists,” Barth said.
As we have come out of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute show passenger car fatalities and pedestrian fatalities are higher now in Marion County than before the pandemic.
Pedestrian fatalities totaled 40 and 33 in 2020 and 2021 respectively. Since 2016, pedestrian fatalities had not been higher than 27 in any year in the county.
Preliminary data for passenger car fatalities in 2021 totaled 66 across the county. In 2020 and 2019, the total for each year was 39 fatalities.
One part of the new Complete Streets proposal includes more transparency and accountability to show the steps DPW is taking when designing or designing a street.
“There’s ongoing documentation to when there are any variants to the policy and that those variances are reported out publicly, posted online and reported to the council on an annual meeting,” Barth said.
Easley said DPW is looking forward to this additional layer of transparency and reporting.
“It’s obviously very good to show our change over time and how different projects and different operations are being thought of in the Complete Streets framework,” Easley said.
Another piece is a fatal crash review board, which looks into areas where fatal crashes happen and see what infrastructure improvements could be made.
“Whenever there is a crash, when there is a fatality, the city will go through the process of insuring they have looked at every aspect of the fatality and that if there is anything that can be done to improve the built environment to make it a safer intersections that work can be done,” Barth said.
Easley said DPW has already been doing this informally. He added that usually there are more issues with the drivers than the infrastructure.
“The engineering is there and it is sufficient,” Easley said. “But often times it is drivers that have just disregarded the engineering or the signage or the lights.”
Barth said the overall goal is to make sure motorists are aware of all the travelers around them.
“We need to start changing how we design streets so it’s not a clear communication to motorists to go fast but the clear communication is go cautious, be intentional, be careful of others on the streets,” said Barth.
Barth said he expects the proposal to be moved to committee Monday night and doesn’t see anything stopping it getting approved and moving forward quickly.