Another Life Lost on Colfax — Don’t Blame the Victim, Blame Colorado DOT

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Rather than walk a half-mile to get across the street, the victim chose to cross here. Image: Google Maps

Colfax Avenue is affectionately known as the “longest, wickedest street in America” for its colorful places and unique people. But for people who walk on Colfax, the street is wicked in all the wrong ways. Drivers routinely run over people, and people on foot take their lives in their hands merely by crossing the street.

The latest victim is an unidentified 57-year-old man who was killed in Aurora at Colfax and Scranton. Someone driving a Cadillac Escalade ran him over as he crossed the street. He was the third person to be killed on Colfax while walking this year, and at least the sixth since the beginning of last year.

Aurora police were quick to blame the victim in a press release:

Proximate cause of the crash was the actions of the pedestrian crossing the street in a heavily landscaped and poorly lit median area, instead of using a marked or signalized crosswalk.

[The driver] did not see the pedestrian in time and struck him.

The police also ventured that the victim was “possibly homeless,” as if that had any bearing on his culpability.

The incident is similar to one earlier this year, in which David Washington was killed as he crossed Colfax, then posthumously blamed in Denver PD’s crash report.

In this case, the closest marked crosswalk to where the victim died is almost a quarter-mile away in one direction and even further in the other direction. If the victim’s destination was directly across the street, and he used a marked crosswalk to get there, he would have had to walk at least half a mile out of his way. While the law calls his choice to cross a mistake, he would probably call it logical.

It’s a choice that the design of Colfax leads many people to make. In Denver, just 24 percent of Colfax intersections have crosswalks, according to WalkDenver.

What about driver speed? Police say they’ve determined, somehow, that the driver did not exceed the posted 35 mph speed limit. But the driver also did not decelerate or steer away from the victim in time to avoid an impact with lethal force.

The victim is not around to tell us how fast the driver was traveling, but the fact is that Colfax is designed for deadly speeds. With eight lanes at this location, divided by a median, it functions more like a highway than a city street.

When so many people are killed on a single street, something is wrong with that street. As long as we’re content to buy the story from police that these victims are at fault for their own deaths, instead of holding Colorado DOT accountable for allowing such dangerous conditions to persist, the death toll will continue to mount.