The Longer Mayor Hancock Puts Off Safety Fixes for Federal Blvd, the More Lives Will Be Lost

At Denver's Ride and Walk of Silence for victims of traffic violence, the Vision Zero Coalition called for Hancock to commit $5 million to make Federal Boulevard safer.

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

On Wednesday evening, about 70 people gathered in Sunnyside to remember the people killed in traffic collisions on Denver streets.

The organizers of the Ride and Walk of Silence picked Federal Boulevard for their solemn procession. For good reason: It’s the city’s deadliest street, where 11 people lost their lives in crashes last year alone.

Everyone had to walk single-file more or less, because the sidewalks on Federal are so narrow, with no buffer from cars traveling at lethal speeds. The street was deemed too dangerous for a group bike ride, so people on bikes took a separate route to the memorial event.

Walking on Federal. Photo: David Sachs

Both groups convened at Rude Park, where Father Joseph Dang, a priest and advocate for Denver’s Vietnamese community, read the names of 65 people killed on Denver streets since the beginning of 2017. Dang became an advocate for safer streets after witnessing a driver strike and kill 73-year-old pedestrian Xanh Bui on Federal last October.

“I didn’t know that the list was so big,” he said. “I thought it was less than 20… Wow.”

Father Joseph Dang reads the names of people killed in traffic,with CDOT’s new headquarters in the background. Photo: David Sachs
Mourners listen to the names of victims being read. Photo: David Sachs

It doesn’t have to be this way. The rate of traffic fatalities in Denver is far higher than peer cities like Seattle or San Francisco because our streets are designed to accommodate cars, not to enable safe movement.

We know that the Colorado Department of Transportation and Mayor Michael Hancock’s public works department can redesign streets to prevent deaths and injuries. But while Hancock has been happy to release traffic safety plans, he hasn’t been very eager to act.

Despite the death toll on Federal Boulevard, the only recent improvements have been signal tweaks — not physical changes like pedestrian islands, sidewalk extensions, narrower traffic lanes, and tighter corners for drivers. So the Vision Zero Coalition is asking Hancock to reserve $5 million in next year’s budget for fixes to Federal.

“Each traffic fatality is a human life that was cut short,” said WalkDenver Executive Director Jill Locantore, who leads the coalition. “Each person who died had family members and friends who mourn that loss. The best way that we can honor the lives that have been lost is by dedicating our hearts and dedicating our minds to making streets and communities more safe.”

Residents write letters to Mayor Hancock. Photo: David Sachs

Mourners wrote postcards to Hancock in support of the funding, which the coalition will hand-deliver to the mayor’s office.

“It’s a commemorating night to remember the lives that have been lost over the last year and a half,” said Kristin Smith, a board member with WalkDenver. “It’s also a night to celebrate the fact that we’re all here together, choosing to connect, choosing to be here, choosing to not give up.”

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs