Five of Seven Pedestrian Deaths in Denver This Year Happened on Two Streets

Pedestrian Deaths
Of the seven people killed while walking on Denver’s streets this year, five were struck at intersections along Federal Boulevard or Colfax Avenue.

On Denver’s streets, pedestrians and cyclists are at the bottom of the food chain. Dangerous designs and high-speed traffic jeopardize people walking and biking most of all. That’s one of the countless reasons Denver should adopt Vision Zero, a policy approach to street safety that recognizes traffic “accidents” can be prevented by smart design and enforcement.

In 2015, seven people have already been killed while walking in Denver. Five of those fatal crashes occurred on just two streets — Federal Boulevard and Colfax Avenue — a clear indication that these wide state roads need to be redesigned. If the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Toward Zero Deaths commitment has any teeth and Mayor Michael Hancock’s office is indeed serious about street safety, it’s time to rethink Federal and Colfax before more people lose their lives.

One of Streetsblog Denver’s goals is to ensure that our streets are safe enough for everyone to walk or bike without getting killed in traffic. Toward this end, we’ll be tracking and updating traffic fatality cases to better illuminate the sources of danger and how to prevent deaths in the future.

Here are the people who have lost their lives while walking Denver’s streets so far this year.

Andrew Marthaler, 24 

Andrew Marthaler
Andrew Marthaler

On February 8, Marthaler was crossing Colfax near Fox Street when 30-year-old Brenda Rosales-Montoya hit him with her SUV at 60 mph — twice the speed limit. Rosales-Montoya left the scene but a witness trailed her. Police charged Rosales-Montoya with vehicular homicide, driving without insurance, and leaving the scene of a deadly accident. She will appear in court June 3 for a preliminary hearing.

Marthaler was a musician and artist. He graduated from CU-Boulder in 2013 with degrees in biochemistry and mathematics.

Austin Strasser, 3

Austin Strasser
Austin Strasser

On February 13, Joan Hinkemeyer, 78, struck Strasser with her Toyota Corolla while taking a left onto University Boulevard from Ohio Avenue going south. Strasser, who was in a stroller, and his mother and sister, who were injured, used the crosswalk and had the right of way. It was a week before the victim’s fourth birthday.

Hinkemeyer said sun glare blocked her view of the crosswalk. Police charged her with careless driving resulting in death — a misdemeanor — and two counts of careless driving resulting in injury. Hinkemyer received a one-day jail sentence, 30 days on house arrest, 200 community service hours, and a mandatory driving course.

Valentino Abeyta, 42

Valentino Abeyta
Valentino Abeyta

On March 3 at about 2 a.m., an unidentified driver struck and killed Abeyta on South Federal Boulevard near West Harvard Avenue before fleeing the area. He drove a silver Toyota Camry, which police have not yet found.

Abeyta had four children, according to his obituary. “Anybody that don’t have the courage to stop and call for help, call 911…it’s just a ruthless thing for them to do,” Abeyta’s brother told the Denver Post.

Ruben Marquez, 57

Ruben Marquez
Ruben Marquez

On March 8 at about 8 p.m., Alicia Contos allegedly struck Marquez near North Federal Boulevard and West 14th Avenue. Police charged the 41-year-old Contos, who awaits trial, with two counts of vehicular homicide — one for driving under the influence and one for reckless driving.

Marquez had four daughters, according to his obituary.

Jose Molina Barraza

Jose Barraza was walking his bike near South Federal Boulevard and West Walsh Place at around 9:30 p.m. on April 9 when a speeding driver struck and killed him before fleeing the scene. The car was traveling “at an unknown but high rate of speed” according to a police report.

Unidentified Victim, 39

Ryan Winicki was charged with vehicular homicide and two counts of DUI for killing an unidentified pedestrian on Colfax Avenue and Logan Street in the early morning hours of April 12. Winicki left the scene but was followed by a taxi driver and later returned, according to a police report. He is scheduled to appear in court May 20.

Armando Rodriguez-Uribe, 34

A fight may have led to the hit-and-run murder of Armando Rodriguez-Uribe, who police say was intentionally struck near South Perry Street and West Kentucky Avenue in Southwest Denver on May 3. The medical examiner confirmed the death was a homicide. Police are looking for a dark, four-door Dodge Ram or Ford F-150 pick-up truck.

I’ll leave you with this provocative 30-second PSA produced by CDOT. Here’s hoping the agency backs up this message with real changes to Denver and Colorado’s streets.

  • Dan

    I seldom post and I doubt if I’ll follow up to any replies. BUT;
    – “A policy approach to street safety that recognizes traffic “accidents” can be PREVENTED by smart design and enforcement” is just plain wrong. Smart Design and Enforcement CAN MINIMIZE mishaps but to say they can be prevented implies that everyone follows every law, rule and guideline known to man. I agree there is always room for improving safety but let’s look at YOUR examples:
    What makes Federal and Colfax bad design.
    1. Andrew was hit by a driver going 60 MPH.
    2. Austin was in a stroller, in the crosswalk, with the right of way.
    3. Valentino’s death was caused by a Hit & Run driver.
    4 & 5. Ruben and Jose were both hit by drivers drinking and driving
    6. Armando was intentionally killed!
    Where is the “Clear Indication” showing that the design of the street would have helped ANY of these people?

    • David Sachs

      Hi Dan, I understand your points. Street design elements can affect drivers’ physical behavior, and sometimes even on subconscious level. Narrowing the street visually, even by simply adding trees, can slow people down and make them more aware of pedestrians (or decrease the probability of a severe injury). one reader put it, the fact that someone can even get up to 60 mph on a major urban street is problematic. Street design cannot absolve drivers from making poor decisions like drinking and driving, but I bet if you mapped all the auto-pedestrian crashes in Denver over the last 10 years, Federal and Colfax would still be a pattern, whether the drivers were drunk or sober. There will always be other contributing factors to crashes but if street design and enforcement can help slow speeds, which is proven to prevent deaths, the government has a responsibility to do something about it.

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