Denver City Council Members Say Hancock’s 2018 Budget Doesn’t Do Enough for Walking and Biking

But will they follow through and press for additional funds in the final budget?

Photo: Clay Harmon
Photo: Clay Harmon

Denver City Council members say they want more money for walking and biking than what Mayor Michael Hancock has proposed in his draft 2018 budget.

Several members sounded off during a Denver Public Works budget hearing Tuesday, signaling that they’ll request more funding for sidewalks and bike lanes.

“I hope we don’t miss that opportunity to push [funding] up a little bit more and really make some changes so we’re actually giving people those options to get out of their car,” said Councilman Paul Kashmann. “And until we do, people are gonna drive.”

The council is expected to vote on a final budget in October, and any increases for walking and biking will have to be sent to Hancock and approved by the mayor before then. It remains to be seen exactly what changes the council will ask for and how much of a fight members will put up, but it’s clear that there’s a lot of room to improve the draft budget.

A step backward on new sidewalk construction

The good news is that 2018 spending plan includes a new $4.5 million line item to help low-income property owners pay for sidewalk repairs, as Streetsblog reported two weeks ago.

What’s still lacking is a predictable funding stream to construct new sidewalks and fill gaps in Denver’s patchy pedestrian network. In fact, there’s less funding for sidewalk expansion than last year.

Hancock’s budget last year included $2.5 million dedicated to sidewalk construction, but just $1.9 million for new sidewalks this time around.

No increase for Denver’s bike plan

Hancock’s budget would provide $2.2 million to implement Denver Moves, the city’s bike plan. That’s the same as last year and represents minimal progress since 2015, when the Denver Auditor’s Office called out Hancock for his failure to fund the bike plan.

“We would like to see consistent progress in the line items that build out the bike lane and sidewalk networks,” said Piep van Heuven, a spokesperson for the Denver Streets Partnership.

Councilman Jolon Clark said he was concerned that building out the city’s bike network would take “decades and decades.”

“If you flip the switch for a second and said, ‘Hey, you should really buy a car right now because by 2042 you’ll have a road grid that you can drive on,’ I wouldn’t be too motivated right now to switch to a car,” he said.

Clark and the rest of the council can follow through by pressing Hancock to increase funding for walking and biking before he submits a final budget. We’ll know more about whether council members will request more funding — and how much — after a Council meeting Monday.