INDIANAPOLIS — State lawmakers and cyclists are pushing for safety changes after another bicyclist was hit and killed Wednesday.
A woman was killed in a hit-and-run while riding her bike Wednesday afternoon on Indy's southeast side. It's far from the first time this has happened in the city. Now, local leaders want to see Indiana's law changed to make drivers slow down and share the road.
"The Monon, when the weather is nice, it's one of the packed places of the city," said Summer Keown, interim managing director at Bicycle Indiana.
Wednesday afternoon's sunshine drew walkers, joggers and bikers to the Monon Trail around Broad Ripple. But the trail also includes busy crossings for cars. Crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists are on the rise and its worrying people, including Keown.
“We, unfortunately, are a state that needs a little bit more when it comes to protecting cyclists and pedestrians and other folks along our roads,” Keown said.
From 2019 to 2020, BikeIndianapolis.org reported an 18% increase in pedestrian crashes, along with a 16% increase in crashes involving bikes.
Fifty-nine people were killed.
"Unfortunately at the moment, there aren't typically legal ramifications when a driver hits a cyclist or a pedestrian and causes severe injury or kills them," Keown said. "And that even means they essentially don’t receive a fine or even have their driver’s license suspended, so we’re hoping that will change,”
Indiana law requires that drivers give bicyclists three feet of space, but most drivers on the road know that doesn't always happen and often, it leads to near-misses or crashes.
"I know that even just walking around the downtown area, crossing the sidewalks, people kind of whip in, whip through real fast. I've had a near incident myself. So we ask motorists to move over a little bit and give a lot of space to those folks that you share the road with," said Indiana Senator J.D. Ford, D-District 29.
Beyond the asking, Ford authored a bill to create a vulnerable user law in the Hoosier state that would include pedestrians, construction workers, farmers and cyclists, as well as establish criminal penalties for drivers who kill them or cause serious harm.
"Enhancing the criminal penalties may not ever solve this issue, but I do think that people would understand that, 'OK, I may need to give the space or slow down and/or stop if something tragic were to happen,'" said Ford.
That bill never even got a hearing in the recent session, but Ford said this will be a top priority for him again in the next one.
“We have a bill," Ford said. "We’re just asking for it to get a hearing, so that way, we can start to discuss the statistics, hear the stories. And I think once our lawmakers ... once my colleagues hear the stories and the stats, I think they’ll be compelled to push this legislation forward. We're just asking motorists to slow down, to move over, to give the space necessary. We think people can equally share the road."
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