WalkDenver to Mayor Hancock: Make Federal Blvd a Safe Place to Travel Now, Not Later

Federal Boulevard. Image: WalkDenver
Federal Boulevard. Image: WalkDenver

Denver has a public health crisis: people are suffering violent deaths just trying to get around the city. But nowhere is the problem more stark than on Federal Boulevard, where drivers have killed 10 people in 2017 — six of them walking.

The fatality rate on Federal is 20 times that of other urban streets in Colorado, according to WalkDenver, Denver’s pedestrian advocacy organization.

Following the deaths of Raymond Sanchez and Tina Padilla in a three-day span late last month, WalkDenver is demanding that the Hancock administration make physical fixes to the street and enact policy changes to make Federal a safe place for everyone, rather than a speedway where people cross at the risk of death.

In a letter to its members, the group called on Hancock’s streets department to slow down drivers and prioritize people walking with simple engineering fixes, and to dedicate space for buses that would eliminate conflict between vehicles and people boarding and disembarking. WalkDenver also wants state legislators to broaden permitted use of electronic speed enforcement.

To meet these goals, WalkDenver is asking Hancock to make a “significant allocation” to Federal Boulevard in his 2018 budget, which he’ll unveil next week.

“These changes to Federal Boulevard are not luxuries that can wait ten years for possible funding when the City considers another GO Bond – hundreds of people could die during that timeframe if we do nothing,” WalkDenver writes. “Action is urgently needed to protect the health and well-being of Denver’s residents, particularly the most vulnerable: children, older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income families that rely on walking, biking, and transit to meet their daily needs.”

Colorado DOT — which has jurisdiction over Federal — and Denver Public Works have been dismissive of pedestrian safety concerns in the past, and instead have plans to widen the street and create even longer crossings for people on foot. Hancock’s streets department has floated a nebulous plan to make Federal safer, but there’s no set timetable and no identified funding source. Meanwhile, drivers on Federal continue to kill people.

WalkDenver is taking its campaign for a safer Federal directly to Hancock and residents in hopes of swift action. Here are WalkDenver’s recommendations, which the group says “the city should undertake immediately”:

Add traffic calming measures that reinforce safe speeds and increase pedestrian safety at key crossings. These include:

  • Raised, planted medians that limit dangerous turning motions and slow traffic
  • Pedestrian median refuges that shorten crossing distances and provide people walking a safe place to wait half-way across the street
  • High-visibility mid-block crossing opportunities with pedestrian activated signals that connect important destinations
  • Reduced corner radii that slow turning vehicles and increase pedestrian space

Dedicate lanes for transit vehicles to reduce conflict between modes, improve transit operations, and further calm traffic. Funding for similar transit improvements along Colfax are included in the 2017 GO Bond. Unfortunately, City Council removed $9.8 million for transit enhancements along Federal during a final round of amendments to the GO Bond project list.

Build a coalition to revise Colorado state law to allow automated speed enforcement within broader contexts. Current law prohibits use of speed cameras along much of the High Injury Network – the 5% of Denver’s streets where 50% of the traffic fatalities occur – which includes Federal Boulevard. Automated enforcement is a proven technique used worldwide to reduce speed-related injuries and fatalities, and when deployed effectively actually results in fewer citations as safer travel speeds become the norm.