Denver Public Works Will Re-Time Downtown Signals to Prioritize Pedestrians

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

Over the next year, the city’s streets department will overhaul traffic signals downtown to ensure people walking have enough time to cross the streets.

The re-timing project also aims to prioritize people on bikes, light rail riders, and bus riders, said Joshua Jones, a traffic engineer with Denver Public Works.

“The last priority, especially downtown… is vehicles,” Jones said.

The initiative was prompted by the growing volume of people traveling through the Central Business District as population rises and new transit lines open. All told, the department will re-time 211 traffic signals — including bike signals and transit signals. First DPW will observe and measure pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists over the next year to inform changes.

Most downtown crosswalks have exclusive pedestrian phases where motorized traffic stops in every direction, according to DPW, but at intersections where pedestrian counts are rising, for example, the signals should give people more time to cross.

The federal standard is to give pedestrians at least one second of signal time for every 3.5 feet of street they have to cross. That’s not the case everywhere.

Take York Street through north-central Denver. Rebecca LaFond, another engineer with DPW, just finished adjusting signals on 3.3 miles of York (and Josephine Street from 6th to 18th) to improve the crossing times for pedestrians. People walking now have up to 10 seconds longer to cross, she said.

In addition to adjusting the timing of pedestrian signals, the city is looking to restrict turns at some locations to reduce conflicts between turning drivers and pedestrians, as well as giving transit priority at traffic signals so buses spend less time stopped at red lights.