Traffic Deaths Are on the Rise, and Denver’s Still Waiting for a Safety Plan From Mayor Hancock

About 45 percent of people killed traveling Denver's streets over the last five years were either walking or biking. Source: Denver PD, Colorado DOT, NHTSA.
About 45 percent of people killed traveling Denver's streets over the last five years were either walking or biking. Source: Denver PD, Colorado DOT, NHTSA.

Back in February 2016, Mayor Hancock said he was committed to Vision Zero, the goal of ending traffic deaths in the city. But Denverites are still waiting for a concrete street safety plan from the Hancock administration, and the human toll keeps rising.

Drivers killed 26 people walking or biking on Denver streets last year. That’s up from 20 fatalities in 2015, according to Denver PD.

Overall traffic deaths, including car occupants, are also headed in the wrong direction. Since 2012, the number of people killed on Denver streets has increased each year. About 46 percent of the victims were walking or biking.

Cities that commit to Vision Zero are supposed to act swiftly and decisively to rapidly reduce traffic deaths. A major focus is designing and managing streets to make fatal driving speeds a thing of the past.

Cities including Austin and Seattle recently lowered speed limits, for instance, one ingredient in a much bigger recipe. But the most important aspect of Vision Zero plans is to redesign streets to minimize high traffic speeds. That means taking steps like narrowing traffic lanes, shortening crossing distances for pedestrians, and building protected bike lanes.

When Hancock adopted the Vision Zero goal last year, he signaled that his engineers, planners, police officers, and health officials would treat traffic deaths as preventable, not inevitable. Nearly a year later, at least another 54 people have been killed in traffic, and we’re still waiting to see what Hancock’s plan entails.

A comprehensive analysis of crash data is due out in February, according to the city’s website. The complete “implementation action plan” is not due out until this fall. Too many people will lose their lives in the meantime.

The mayor needs to make Vision Zero a more urgent priority. At this rate, years will pass before the city takes concrete steps to follow through on his promise to protect Denver residents from dangerous streets.

This article was updated to include two deaths of people on bikes not previously counted.

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