In Memoriam: The People Who Died Walking and Biking in Denver Last Year

1
Andrew Marthaler, Austin Strasser, Naythan Cordova.

End-of-year lists are an inescapable part of the calendar flipping from December to January. Some of those serve to entertain, but this list serves to remind Mayor Michael Hancock, his Department of Public Works, and CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt that 19 20 people were killed while walking and biking through the city in 2015. Half of them were killed on one of Denver’s CDOT-controlled urban highways like Colfax and Federal.

For perspective:

  • 2013: 15 pedestrians killed; 0 people on bikes killed
  • 2014: 16 pedestrians killed; 5 people on bikes killed
  • 2015: 17 18 pedestrians killed; 2 people on bikes killed

That’s 19 20 needless victims, 19 20 sets of families and friends mourning, and 19 20 situations that could have been avoided with safer street designs that protect people walking, biking, and driving — even when they make the inevitable human mistake. Some drivers were charged and some weren’t. Some victims were blamed, even though the streets they used were designed solely to speed cars through a crowded city.

While Denver hasn’t made a dent in its traffic safety problem the past few years, other cities have. New York had 2.73 traffic deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, according to preliminary data. Seattle had 2.24 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014, the latest data available. Denver? 7.38 traffic deaths per 100,000 people in 2015. That means dozens of lives could be saved each year by catching up to these other cities.

Streets in Seattle and New York were already much safer than Denver’s — and are poised to get safer still with polices adopted under their Vision Zero commitment to end traffic deaths and serious injuries. New York, for example, is heading in the right direction when it comes to fewer people dying while walking. Decision makers there set a default 25 mph speed limit, installed 140 speed enforcement cameras, and redesigned several miles of streets and dozens of intersections each year for safety.

Hancock is poised to adopt Vision Zero this year. The details, though, are anyone’s guess. One thing that’s not up in the air: A serious, specific commitment to ending traffic violence in Denver will make a difference — even though for some, like the victims below, it’s too late.

Here are the people known to have died last year while walking or biking, according to the Denver Police Department and media reports.

  • Andrew Mathaler, 24, killed crossing Colfax Avenue at Fox Street. Hit-and-Run driver Brenda Rosales-Montoya charged with vehicular homicide.
  • Austin Strasser, 3, killed while crossing University Boulevard in a stroller being pushed by his mother. Joan Hinkenmeyer charged with careless driving resulting in death.
  • Naythan Cordova, 41, killed by RTD train near the Auraria Station. No charges.
  • Christopher Barns, 32, killed walking near Colorado and MLK in Park Hill. No charges.
  • Jose Molina Barraza, killed walking near Federal and Walsh by a hit-and-run driver. Investigation pending.
  • Martin Solis, 48, killed walking on West Alameda near Federal Boulevard in Westwood. No charges for driver.
2
Valentino Abeyta, Ruben Marquez, Alfonzo Pullen.
  • Valentino Abeyta, 42, killed walking on Federal and Harvard. Hit-and-run driver charged with vehicular homicide.
  • Ruben Marquez, 57, killed walking near Federal and 14th. Alicia Contos charged with vehicular homicide.
  • Alfonzo Pullen, 39, killed walking near Colfax and Logan by hit-and-run driver. Ryan Winicki charged with vehicular homicide.
  • Alex Brundige killed walking on Mississippi Avenue in Athmar Park. No charges.
  • Timothy Erickson, 55, killed biking on Colorado near Colfax. No charges.
  • Manuel Salazar, 57, killed crossing Sheridan Boulevard at 1st Avenue. No charges.
3
Biznu Rizal, Kaela Alston.
  • Biznu Rizal, 82, killed walking near Tower Road and 47th Avenue. Driver charged with careless driving resulting in death.
  • Kaela Alston, 23, killed biking near York and 41st. No charges.
  • Denise Barauskas, 59, killed crossing Chestnut at 19th downtown. No charges.
  • Michael Alvarado, 42, killed in a downtown alley by a hit-and-run driver. Investigation pending.
  • Christine Apodaca, 23, killed after falling from a moving vehicle in Valverde. Driver charged with felony hit-and-run.
  • Unidentified Victim, killed walking near Colfax and Xavier on December 11. (Fox31)
  • Unidentified Victim, killed walking on I-25 near 20th on December 13. (Fox31)
  • Unidentified Victim John Wilson, killed “in the early morning hours of 12/29/15 on I-70 at Brighton Blvd,” according to the Denver Police Department. “The victim was outside of a disabled vehicle in a lane of travel when he and his truck were struck by another vehicle. The driver of the second vehicle is not facing charges.”

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