Denver Streets Partnership to Denverites: Convince Electeds to Restore Ped-Bike Funding

Photo: WalkDenver
Photo: WalkDenver

Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver City Council have a chance to back up all their talk about safe streets and elevating transportation options other than cars.

A good start, advocates say, is to restore funding to the build-out of Denver’s inadequate walking and biking networks — which an influential executive committee slashed in its final recommendations to Hancock on Monday [PDF]. The project list, in some form, will eventually go before voters in November.

“Every so often that moment comes along,” said Bicycle Colorado Denver Director Piep van Heuven, who represents the Denver Streets Partnership. “You have that moment to make real change, and this is it for Denver. The mayor has been talking for months about mobility, and we’re about to find out whether he’s in at 100 percent.”

A subcommittee of transportation professionals, the disabled community, public schools, affordable housing, and other neighborhood leaders had recommended $30 million to fund the city’s perennially under-funded plan for a seamless biking grid, which the executive committee dropped to $18 million. That sum won’t even get Denver Public Works through phase two of the plan.

The executive committee dropped the original $41.9 million for sidewalk construction — which would still make only a small dent in Denver’s patchwork network — to $29.7 million.

The Denver Streets Partnership wants the public to make waves so that Hancock restores that money. Here’s how WalkDenver framed the ask in an appeal to its members:

The [General Obligation] Bond, which the City will ask voters to approve this fall, is an important opportunity to jump start the construction of sidewalks and bike lanes citywide, but City leaders need to hear from people like you how important walking and biking are for your daily transportation needs.

Our fellow member of the Denver Streets Partnership, Bicycle Colorado, has a created a simple form you can fill out to send a customized message to the Mayor and your City Council representatives.

There’s plenty of money in the couch cushions. Right now the bond package recommendations total $749.2 million, but that doesn’t count $50 million that the executive committee left for Hancock and the City Council to earmark however they please. And the city’s biking and walking networks don’t represent pet projects — they represent citywide infrastructure.

Besides the slush fund at their disposal, electeds could make up the funding by cutting auto-centric projects, like the planned widening of 56th Avenue, or kicking the can down the road on long-neglected road and gutter maintenance. Those line items total $128 million.

“That’s a big number,” BikeDenver Executive Director James Waddell said, referring to road maintenance costs. “The question should become, why are we having such a big line item every 10 years, instead of chipping away at it with $10 million a year in the budget?” Waddell would like to see a breakdown of the vague “deferred maintenance” line item. Hopefully, maintaining bike infrastructure is baked into that — or can be, he said.

As John Riecke lays out in a recent post on DenverUrbanism:

While spending money on maintenance is important, spending bond money on maintenance means we’re paying interest on every dollar we spend. Bond interest, though low, is still interest, and a dollar borrowed today will cost us two dollars by the time it’s paid off in 2028.

“Our message is that transportation is for everyone, and these networks are critical so that people — all people — can get around Denver safely,” van Heuven said. “We know there are a lot of people that want to walk and bike and take transit who can’t do it right now because the safe networks don’t exist. We have a system that functions well for cars, and not well for most other things.”

Head to Bicycle Colorado’s website to send a message to Hancock and City Council members.