Eyes on the Street: It’s Safer to Walk Across Colfax at Park Avenue and Franklin Street

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

Denver Director of Transportation and Mobility Crissy Fanganello promised “immediate” fixes to some of the city’s most dangerous intersections earlier this month, and Denver Public Works has delivered on East Colfax Avenue where it meets Park Avenue and Franklin Street to form a dangerous five-legged intersection.

Colorado Department of Transportation crews gave the crosswalks a makeover with simple, inexpensive materials — paint and plastic posts — that now demarcate two pedestrian islands in the middle of Colfax. The islands make pedestrians stand out more to motorists turning onto Colfax, and provide a refuge to people who can’t make it across the street in one light cycle.

The islands used to be turn lanes for drivers, but CDOT has banned left turns from Colfax onto Park and Franklin, re-purposing that space for people walking along the city’s busiest bus corridor. The turn bans also increase safety on their own, eliminating motorist movements that conflict with crossing pedestrians.

Photo: David Sachs
If you can’t make it across Colfax in one light cycle, there’s now a designated space to wait. Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs
The new pedestrian islands used to be turn lanes. Photo: David Sachs

DPW used the same materials at two intersections to build curb extensions that enlarge the pedestrian zone, shorten crossing distances, and cue turning drivers to slow down. Here’s one on Park north of Colfax:

Photo: David Sachs
Drivers heading north on Park will have to take turns more carefully with these curb extensions. Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs
A painted curb extension at Franklin. Photo: David Sachs

The intersection still needs some work, however. People trying to cross Colfax from the west side of Franklin Street only receive a walk signal when they press the beg button. If they don’t press it, they won’t get to cross legally. That also means anyone waiting on the island will have to wait for someone else to press the button before they finish crossing — otherwise they’ll have to cross “against the light” (and get blamed by Denver PD if a driver hits them).

David DiGiacomo, an engineer with DPW, acknowledged that the redesign may necessitate new signal phases. He will “revisit the pedestrian operations,” he told Streetsblog.

Overall, the project is a winner. This is exactly the type of rapid fix Denver needs if the Hancock administration is going to make progress on its goal to end traffic deaths and serious injuries.

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