Bloomington welcomes bikes on its urban rail-trail, but the rules for cyclists crossing the street are not always clear.
At several intersections near downtown, trail users see a stop sign and are warned that cross traffic does not stop. Then they enter a crosswalk with a sign in the middle telling motorists they must yield to pedestrians.
Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Vince Caristo says motorists must give the right-of-way to people on foot, but the law is vague when it comes to bikes.
“It’s admittedly sort of a gray area for bicyclists at trail crossings,” he says.
Bikes are considered vehicles under state law, which is why there are stop signs on the trail.
“To say that drivers shouldn’t yield to a trail user, that doesn’t make sense either,” Caristo says.
Nancy Tibbett is the Executive Director of Bicycle Indiana. She says that signs on the Monon Trail in Indianapolis and the Greenways trail in eastern Indiana usually tell all trail users to stop for traffic.
“[It’s] a little different than the way our infrastructure was originally designed because if we have mid-block crosswalks as we do in many places, pedestrians have the right of way,” she says.
Tibbett says she learned as an instructor for the American League of Bicyclists that cyclists are supposed to dismount when they reach a crosswalk. But she says that’s not realistic.
Jared MacKinnon was on the B-line trail Wednesday. He says some intersections, particularly the one at Second Street, can be hard to cross when traffic is heavy.
“But other than that, if you’re paying attention, cars are usually pretty friendly about letting you pass,” he says.
Caristo suggests Indiana could improve safety by clarifying the status of bikes in crosswalks and by requiring road-users to stop, rather than yield, at those crossings.