#StreetFail: City or Wealthy Homeowners Should Upgrade the University Blvd Dirtwalk

One of two bus stops on the University Boulevard dirtwalk. Photo: David Sachs
One of two bus stops on the University Boulevard dirtwalk. Photo: David Sachs

Denverites who walk, wheel, and take the bus to get around know the city’s patchy sidewalk network all too well — 40 percent of the grid is either missing sidewalks or sporting walkways too thin for people in wheelchairs.

The half-mile of stretch of University Boulevard between Alameda Avenue and Exposition Avenue is one of those segments where, instead of a sidewalk, you get a dirt path and overgrown bushes. It’s a signal to people walking and riding transit that unless you’re driving on the east side of University, you’ll be treated as a second-class citizen.

This stretch of dirt is in Councilman Wayne New’s district. It butts right up against speeding traffic — there’s no buffer to keep pedestrians safe on a street where, according to a nearby radar sign, drivers routinely travel at 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. A school is nearby.

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

Fixing this stretch of public space is not technically the responsibility of Denver Public Works, because Denver’s sidewalk policy unrealistically expects private homeowners to maintain public sidewalks. Thanks to advocates and Denver City Council, the city created a fund to help poor homeowners repair their sidewalks. But what about rich ones?

Also according to city law, Denver Public Works Executive Director Eulois Cleckley can “order the construction or reconstruction of sidewalks” to complete the area’s sidewalk grid — and it would be the adjacent property owners’ responsibility to do so. Lucky for DPW (and for bus riders who have to traverse this goat path), these property owners can probably afford it. Ten properties sit along this stretch of University and they’re worth, on average, more than $3.7 million, city records show.

Don’t count on the city flexing its muscle though. Denver has “not historically ordered Denver property owners to construct sidewalks where they have not existed previously,” said DPW spokesperson Nancy Kuhn. “In Denver now, new sidewalk construction is primarily triggered by reconstruction and new development activities.”

As is typical in Denver, where golfers enjoy manicured paths funded by taxpayers alongside similar dirtwalks, this missing sidewalk is next to a symbol of wealth: A gated community of sorts with private roads bearing names like Polo Club Lane. A sign warns would-be trespassers to “KEEP OUT” or risk arrest.

DPW should send a message of its own to pedestrians and transit riders by ensuring basic infrastructure for people walking and using wheelchairs.

  • John Riecke

    Eat the rich.

    • TakeFive

      With or without caviar?

  • MT

    A long stretch of Alameda west of University also has no sidewalk.
    I’m pretty sure the folks behind this gate could afford to build one. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7e25b473cda8e34533062cf96300ffc99965f5340feae662e19b3684bb288b76.png

    • TakeFive

      Honestly, along this stretch of two-lane road having a sidewalk along the south side of Alameda should be sufficient. University, however, is a significant arterial street that leads into the Cherry Creek commercial area.

      • MT

        Sure, I should have to cross Alameda twice to get to the sidewalk and back just because these people are too lazy to put in a sidewalk that they are legally required to build and maintain.

        I hope they’ll at least pay for my funeral when I get run over trying to cross Alameda.

        • TakeFive

          Life’s a bitch and then you die… as my Ex used to say.

  • TakeFive

    You’re obviously referencing the east side of the street as I have a nephew who lives on the west side of University and values aren’t anywhere near what you mention. How about some sort of compromise idea?

    Why not invite the adjacent property owners to fund a (nice) asphalt pedestrian/bike ‘path’ along that stretch. Challenge their creative and entrepreneurial spirits. Maybe they’d rise to the opportunity of adding a public access path along the street and take the initiative for doing a right nice job.

  • neroden

    Denver should elimintate its idiotic 19th century sidewalk policy and fund sidewalks the way streets are funded — from property taxes.

    We did it in Ithaca, NY, and it’s been done in several cities in Colorado. Just do it. Establish a Sidewalk Fund. Or, several Sidewalk Funds for different districts of town. Impose a small property tax which goes to the Sidewalk Fund. Problem solved.

    • Matthew S.

      Ithaca yes!!!

    • Scott Voolker

      I agree. There needs to be regularized, formal process for funding sidewalks. I

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