#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

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