Crosswalks On The Monon Trail And Motorists–Who’s Supposed To Stop?
This past week I received a telephone call regarding a case in which a 14-year-old girl was struck by a car while riding her bicycle in a pedestrian crosswalk on the Monon Trail in Carmel, Indiana. At this particular intersection, there were yellow flashing lights and a clearly marked pedestrian walkway for oncoming traffic. The young girl had stopped at this intersection and a motorist that was approaching from one direction stopped to let the girl pass. However, a second motorist coming from the opposite direction didn’t even slow down and struck the girl, throwing her upon the hood of the car and causing some serious injuries.
In speaking with the father of this young lady after this accident, he stated that the investigating police officer told him that motorists had no obligation to stop for bicyclists who were using the Monon Trail and crossing a roadway even if there was a painted crosswalk. In considering this to be nonsense, the father asked the police officer what reason there was for having a painted crosswalk and flashing yellow lights if traffic didn’t have to stop? In response, the police officer paused and then remarked that this was a good question.
In being an avid user of the Monon Trail myself, I have observed many instances in which some motorists stop and others don’t at marked crosswalks, often resulting in a lively exchange of vocal greetings and various hand gestures expressing good will between the motorist and bicyclist!
In Indiana, traffic laws require the driver of a car or truck to stop and let any pedestrian who is in the crosswalk to pass. Ind. Code 9-21-8-36. Indiana’s Official Drivers Manual also states that a motorist must “always yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.”
However, there are signs for pedestrians at these Monon Trail crosswalks which state that pedestrians should stop before crossing the road and that “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop.” Unfortunately, this contradicts state law that requires motorists to yield the right of way to pedestrians who are in any crosswalk, regardless of whether it is located on a street in downtown Indianapolis or on the Monon Trail. Can you imagine what would have happened if motorists during the recent Super Bowl in Indianapolis thought they didn’t have to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk?
The best policy for a bicyclist or pedestrian is to obey any posted traffic signs and not to cross any road without making sure that traffic approaching from both directions sees them and comes to a complete stop. Similarly, if a motorist is approaching a marked crosswalk, they should be aware of their obligation to stop and be cautious because it is likely that someone is going to be using that crosswalk and may not be visible until the motorist is close to the intersection.
In the meantime, signage should be displayed for motorists at all Monon Trail crosswalks that clearly states that motorists have an obligation to stop for bicyclists and pedestrians who are in the crosswalk. This could avoid accidents such as the one involving this young lady.