Residents Deliver Hundreds of Pleas for Safe Streets Funding to Hancock. Will He Listen?
About 70 Denverites crowded outside the City and County Building on Tuesday hoping that Mayor Michael Hancock was listening to their plea for safe streets funding.
The mayor will float a draft of his budget next month, and the Denver Streets Partnership says it’s imperative to fund walking and biking to the tune of $22 million. Otherwise it will take generations to build out the seamless walking and biking network that Hancock and the Denver City Council say they want.
“The urgency of it really stepped up,” said Chris Kampe, who came to the rally holding his baby, Temple. The new father now finds himself holding his breath, too, while crossing the street. “Now that we have her, we really see how dangerous some stuff is, like even getting to her daycare on the west side of Denver and crossing at an intersection at Federal or Speer. It’s terrifying with her.”
The Denver Streets Partnership organized the mass meeting, where residents held up more than 600 individually written pleas from the public for safer streets. Strung together, they took up the entire length of Bannock Street in front of the seat of city government.
Unlike roads, biking and walking infrastructure doesn’t get a guaranteed, hefty sum in the city budget — and bond funding that will be spent over a decade is a down payment, not a mission accomplished, the Partnership says. The $22 million would buy sidewalks, bike lanes, better crosswalks on Federal Boulevard, and quick-hit safety fixes elsewhere. It would also set a precedent for legitimate annual funding.
And now is the time to ask for the dough, according to Danny Katz, who heads the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. Hancock sets the annual budget while the City Council tweaks and approves it, so Tuesday’s demonstration targeted the mayor.
“The mayor is critical in this,” Katz said. “The City Council is an important partner, but it’s his budget. They’re gonna have to make tough decisions… and we want to make sure that they prioritize walking, biking, and people-friendly streets.”
Pam Jiner, who runs the local chapter of GirlTrek, seconded.
“There are too many areas in Colorado where the streets are not complete and they are not an invitation to walk,” Jiner said. “It’s discouraging people. They don’t feel safe, it’s not good.” Jiner wants to see sidewalks that encourage walking because, she said, “We need to walk to live.”
Right now, people are walking (and biking) and dying. More people walking and biking have already died in 2018 than all of last year. That’s a direct result of years of “apathy” from city leaders, said Tom Carllon, a Green Valley Ranch resident who held up a sign reading “Too many deaths.”
“It’s a combination of two things,” Carllon said. “It’s the pressure we’re feeling from growth plus the apathy from the public officials over the years. At this rate, yeah, it’ll turn around. In a generation or two.”