Eyes on the Street: DPW Installs Left Turn Signal at Deadly Intersection (Drivers Ignore It)

A new signal at 13th and Broadway, where Norlan Estrada Reyes killed 28-year-old Karina Pulec with his car in October,  gives pedestrians a safer walking phase. Drivers are completely ignoring it. Photo: David Sachs
A new signal at 13th and Broadway, where Norlan Estrada Reyes killed 28-year-old Karina Pulec with his car in October, gives pedestrians a safer walking phase. Drivers are completely ignoring it. Photo: David Sachs

Simple, inexpensive changes can go a long way toward making dangerous intersections safer. That’s why Denver Public Works installed a dedicated signal for drivers taking a left onto Broadway from 13th Avenue.

It used to be easy for drivers to take a fast left onto Broadway — even with a red light, as both speedy streets are one-way. Last October, Norlan Estrada Reyes did just that, killing 28-year-old attorney Karina Pulec as she walked in the crosswalk.

Karina Pulec. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Karina Pulec, killed at 13th and Broadway. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

DPW dispatched a rapid response team, and about three months later (a millisecond in bureaucratic terms) the new signal came online. The project cost about $6,000, DPW traffic signal engineer David DiGiacomo told Streetsblog.

“There have been 10 crashes since 2012 involving westbound left-turning vehicles and pedestrians in the south crosswalk, including one fatal hit-and-run last October,” DiGiacomo said in an email. “We had a six second leading pedestrian interval, but conflicts between pedestrians and drivers can be managed better by giving each mode an exclusive dedicated signal phase.”

I checked out the signal during morning rush hour, and it’s clear that drivers couldn’t care less about the new rule. In two signal phases, I watched seven drivers take a left with a red arrow, twice with pedestrians still in the crosswalk.

DPW is aware of the problem and will be installing a “Left Turn on Green Arrow Only” sign, DiGiacomo said, “to help remind folks what a red-arrow really means.”

That can’t hurt, but in the meantime this sounds like a job for Denver PD.

  • mckillio

    Would a bulb-out have been cheaper and more effective? It would certainly put pedestrians more in the line of sight of drivers, decrease the distance that peds have to cross and make left turns slower.

    • Ben Schumacher

      Maybe a little. Broadway is really wide at that point, so it would still be easy to take a fast turn. On the other hand, they could do it for really cheap: http://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/04/04/dot-slow-turn-treatments-are-like-sneckdowns-that-never-melt/. Combining efforts would probably be best.

    • Mike

      They could do like they did at Union Station fairly cheaply. Put some paint on the street and plant some bollards to make a bulb-out. It’s amazing how a piece plastic slows down drivers (but not a human being in front of them).

  • TakeFive

    Hahaha… priceless:

    about three months later (a millisecond in bureaucratic terms)

  • TakeFive

    A little off-topic but a weekend treat that my 22-year-old son turned me onto:

  • red123

    Sounds like a job for a red-light camera. Seems like an easy fix to start handing out tickets to anybody that turns left when the light is red.

  • LevelHead

    I’d suggest at dense urban areas right turn on red should be banned altogether, which would go well with better street design. It reduces changes of pedestrians being hit, causes cars to stop behind the pedestrian crosswalk as opposed to in front of it, and reduces chances of car to car accidents. When you take away the option, it also reduces stress levels of drivers and the notion they have to go or people behind them will be angry.

  • Mike

    It seems pretty darn typical for these turn arrows to be ignored. Look at the intersection of Bannock & 14th. They installed signs and changed the forward light to a forward arrow instead of just a light, and I still watch people run that red arrow.

    I ride my bike on a daily basis down 18th St, and frequently watch people turn left onto Blake on a red arrow.

    There are a lot of drivers that are either oblivious, or just flat out don’t care.

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