Traffic Laws…Indianapolis Style

A topic that has always interested me, but I have never covered in either the ITH Facebook group, or here on the blog, are some of the strange things that one can find listed in city ordinances when it comes to “rules of the road.” Some things are “universal.” A stop sign means stop…usually. A red light means stop…again, usually. Crossing gates being lowered at a railroad crossing means a train is coming. But there are some things that are set by the city to give more specific instructions to those that travel city streets. Today, I want to look at Indianapolis. To be honest, the reason I picked Indianapolis is because it was the first one that I ever looked up way back when…exactly, I couldn’t tell you. But Indianapolis has had their ordinances online for a very long time.

The one that always caused me to laugh is weight limits on streets and bridges. Section 441-364 is the part of the city’s ordinances that lists “vehicles on certain streets restricted.” Most of these have been in place for many, many years. Paragraph (e) states “no motor vehicle of the following designated gross weights, with load, shall use the following enumerated streets, except such portions thereof as may be state highways.”

To show how long some of the streets in the list have been on that list, I only need to point out that there is a weight limit of 10,000 pounds gross weight on 17th Street from Belleview Place to Lafayette Road (U.S. Highway 52). And that is how it is written in the city code. Lafayette Road hasn’t been US 52 since I-465 was completed to Brookville Road on the east side of the city.

Two other streets that are included in the weight limit list, and have been, again, for a long time, are Meridian Street from 16th Street to 86th Street and Madison Avenue from Pleasant Run Parkway to Southern Avenue. Remember when I mention paragraph (e) a couple of paragraphs ago? The Madison Avenue mention caught my attention pretty quickly when I saw it the first time. Well, technically, that section of Madison Avenue, a six lane divided highway, stopped being a state highway on 1 July 1999. As did the Meridian Street section. So I guess if the city REALLY wanted to make money…errr…enforce its ordinances, Madison Avenue can really help the cause. What makes it worse is that trucks, using the expressway section just north of Pleasant Run Parkway, have no place to go without violating the ordinance. Pleasant Run Parkway has the weight restrictions. Even if you COULD turn a truck onto that narrow road. At the south end, turning on Southern Avenue is something I wouldn’t want to try in a truck. Oh, no.

Another restriction that makes me chuckle when I read it is the weight restrictions on 16th Street. The 10,000 pound gross weight limit on 16th Street applies to that section from Arlington Avenue to the east city limits. Since most of these rules were coded in the 1970’s, the city limits were, technically, as they are today…the county line. A quick look at a map of Indianapolis will show that the county line is past the end of 16th Street…by two miles. Some are just short restrictions. 51st Street can not be used by trucks from Hillside Avenue east for a span of 150 feet. Trucks are also banned from a section of the east side I refer to as “the alphabets.” East from Franklin Road, the streets are named in order, starting with B, up through H. The restrictions, hence, are on Bazil, Cecil, Devon, Eaton, Fenton, Gibson and Harbison, between Washington and 10th Streets. Occasionally, out here near ITH headquarters, a truck will find itself wandering down the survey line road between Washington Street and Brookville Road. That section of German Church Road also has a weight restriction. And only that section.

Most of the streets on the weight limit list actually make sense. Most are residential neighborhood streets that make driving a car on them a test of a driver’s skill. I wouldn’t want to contemplate how someone would put a large truck on those. Of course, these limits don’t apply if there is a local delivery necessary.

Another thing listed in the city ordinances is speed limits. As a general rule, Indianapolis has a 30 miles per hour for residential streets. This is subject to change depending on alterations listed in Section 441-323. To give an idea of how the speed limits were changed at different times, let’s take a look at East 10th Street. The speed limit along 10th Street is 35 miles per hour from Sherman Drive to Cumberland Road. But it is actually listed in the city code in three places: Sherman Drive to Mitthoefer Road; Mitthoefer Road to German Church Road; and German Church Road to Cumberland Road. The highest speed limit mentioned in this section of the Municipal Code is on 38th Street from Cold Spring Road to the west junction of I-65. The city has set that speed limit at 55 miles per hour. The lowest, with quite a few entries, is 20 miles per hour.

Other things listed in the Municipal Code are: Section 441-336 – Left turns prohibited at enumerated locations (this includes no left turns at all times, and no left turns at certain times); Section 441-337 – Restriction on left turns in the central traffic district; Section 441-338 – Required right turn; and Section 441-339 – Authority of board of public works to prohibit right turns on red at certain locations. All of the one way streets in the city are listed in Section 441-342. Four streets are listed in Section 441-344 because these streets have middle lanes that designated reversible travel. And East Street on that list is for one block…from Sanders Street to Orange Street.

All of the information used in this post comes from the Indianapolis – Marion County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 441. It is available online at There are a lot more things in that chapter than I covered here. If you really are interested to know what the City of Indianapolis regulates when it comes to traffic, I recommend checking out that link.

One thought on “Traffic Laws…Indianapolis Style

  1. Another great article. I’m sure the crazy Indianapolis traffic ordinances that you didn’t cover could fill a book.


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