In a First for Denver, Neighborhood Traffic Circles Coming to West Highland

The traffic circles will look something like this. Photo: Richard Drdul/Flickr
The traffic circles will look something like this. Photo: Richard Drdul/Flickr

Denver Public Works will finally install neighborhood traffic circles at three intersections on West 35th Avenue this July, three years after plans were first drawn up.

This design is part of DPW’s plan to make 35th a “neighborhood bikeway” with calmer traffic. The traffic circles slow motorists at intersections but still allow cyclists to proceed without coming to a stop.

The traffic circles will consist of six-inch-high rubberized curbs with yellow reflective strips at Julian, Newton, and Raleigh streets. Functionally, they’re like little roundabouts, with drivers turning left taking the “long way” around the circle.

Currently on 35th at Newton and Raleigh, there are only stop signs on the side streets. Adding the traffic circles at those intersections will slow down through traffic on 35th. At Julian, there are stop signs on 35th that will be removed as part of the project. The idea is that car traffic on 35th should proceed at a consistently safe speed, and that bicyclists should have a route where they’re not expected to constantly halt their momentum.

“We’re going to evaluate how well the circles keep people on bikes moving along the corridor while calming vehicle speeds,” DPW spokesperson Nancy Kuhn said in an email.

This street treatment is a first for Denver, which has a few more substantial roundabouts on bigger roads but none on smaller residential streets. At about $11,000 a pop, these traffic circles are the kind of low-cost, quick interventions Denver needs more of. (See: 26th Avenue and the intersection of Colfax, Park, and Franklin.)

Image: DPW
Image: DPW

Problem is, it’s taken years for DPW to deliver on something so inexpensive and easy to install. The beauty of these safety interventions is that they’re nimble — the city shouldn’t take years to get them done across Denver.

Yet that’s exactly what’s happened, not unlike the 29th Avenue bikeway that outgoing transportation director Crissy Fanganello mentioned in her exit interview with Streetsblog. Granted, the roundabouts are part of a bigger neighborhood bikeway project, but it’s comprised of similarly small changes. Speeding up the pace of change is something DPW Executive Director Eulois Cleckley has said is a priority.

You don’t always need major, expensive street redesigns to calm traffic. Small, inexpensive street interventions often do the trick, and these traffic circles are an example of that.