#StreetFail: When Construction Shuts Down Sidewalks

There's room on Blake Street for a temporary pedestrian walkway, but no policy to make it happen. Photo: Jill Locantore
There's room on Blake Street for a temporary pedestrian walkway, but no policy to make it happen. Photo: Jill Locantore

With a massive amount of development in Denver comes encroachment by builders into the public right of way. No place is that more evident than on sidewalks, which temporarily disappear all over the city as construction crews build, forcing people on foot to take detours.

According to Denver’s municipal code, “A walkway not less than four (4) feet wide, with a railing on the street side shall be maintained on the sidewalk in front of the building site during construction or demolition work.” But developers can pay for special permits to close sidewalks temporarily.

That’s when you get scenes like this one, at 16th and Blake, where builders are working on a development with 232 homes and space for offices and retail. This block is in probably the most transit-rich, pedestrian-filled part of the city — literally on a pedestrian and transit mall. Nevertheless, people walking on both Blake and 16th are forced to cross over. If crossing is not convenient, people “jaywallk” to get where they need to go. The 16th Street Mall shuttle isn’t stopping here during construction either.

Here’s another idea for this situation and others around the city: Take space typically reserved for cars and give it to people walking. Blake Street is a three-lane, one-way street. There’s more than enough room to build a temporary walkway.

Part of committing to end traffic deaths and serious injuries, as Mayor Michael Hancock has done under the banner of Vision Zero, means prioritizing pedestrians — not pushing them into the street with motorized traffic.

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7th and Grant. Photo: David Sachs
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Central Park Boulevard and 21st Avenue. Photo: David Sachs
  • Tim Leitch

    Any suggestions for what the common person can do on this? The amount of closed sidewalks around downtown is absolutely insane for a city trying to take itself seriously as a city.

  • Dennis

    Thanks for writing this. It’s always frustrating seeing constructions sites do this. Call your city council member and ask them to update the municipal code.

  • Chris Jones

    I walked a few blocks through the CBD a couple days ago and it probably took me an extra 5 minutes because I kept having to cross the street to go around these. Super frustrating, and I’m able-bodied. For other people it might end up being a lot worse than frustrating.

  • iBikeCommute

    The construction at the art museum has blocked off the sidewalk and the protected bike lane on 14th ave. That project is not going to be done quickly either.

  • Charlie

    Thank you for writing this! This issue needs more attention. Other cities are able to leverage higher fees for sidewalk closures and then discount if a safe alternative is provided, which is why covered alternatives are much more popular in other CBDs. Because of TABOR, Denver can only pass along the cost of administration to developers. We need a new reg requiring temp. sidewalks and allow developers to take up vehicle lanes to make this possible

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