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.

  • iBikeCommute

    I disagree that these changes make the intersection much safer for pedestrians. The pedestrian “refuge” has no protection at the end facing the intersection. Cars making a fast left turn from park ave still cut across the yellow paint every light cycle. I would not feel comfortable standing there if I could not make it all the way across. Additional bollards facing the intersection would force cars to take the turn slower but I suspect they would be knocked down within a day.

    The real solution would be to close park ave to traffic as walk denver has been advocating.

    • Bernard Finucane

      You’re right, they don’t seem to have the courage to put the posts where they are most needed — deep inside the intersection. But just shortening the crossing lengths and giving divers visual cues about expected behavior is a great start.

  • John Riecke

    We need this type of intervention on almost every intersection in the city. Wide, intersecting streets make for large lakes of concrete that should be trimmed down to keep pedestrians safe.

    • Bernard Finucane

      It will probably make drivers safer as well, since an intersection that makes it clear where drivers should go reduces errors.

  • How we add all of the badintersections.com on this map to Google Maps and make navigation safer?

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