Latest Crash Reveals ‘Health Epidemic’ of Cars

Last month a car crashed into the Hornet Restaurant for the third time that year. Photo: The Hornet.
Last month a car crashed into the Hornet Restaurant for the third time that year. Photo: The Hornet.

The BMW that slammed into the Hornet restaurant over the weekend marks the third driver who crashed into the restaurant this year, the latest evidence that Denver’s high-speed streets destroy property and threaten public health.

“It’s scary, something has to be done to slow traffic down on this corridor,” says Sean Workman, owner of the restaurant. “We’re lucky that none of our staff has been hurt, that none of our guests have been hurt.”

However, on Valentine’s Day, a driver injured a pedestrian outside the restaurant, which was the second time a car barreled into the restaurant this year.

Workman says that the problem affects the entire neighborhood. Compared to when the restaurant opened, foot traffic has multiplied in recent years as other restaurants and bars have opened. As walking on Broadway has become more common, he has personally witnessed cars hit and injure other pedestrians nearby.  

Heavy concrete trash cans, planters and bollards outside of the Hornet failed to prevent this year’s crashes. Photo: Andy Bosselman, Streetsblog.

“Denver has a public health epidemic, right now, with speeding and irresponsible driving,” says Piep van Heuven, Policy Director of Bicycle Colorado. “We can tell these stories on every major arterial in and around Denver.” She cited Broadway, Federal Blvd, Colfax Ave. and Hampden Ave. among the city’s most dangerous roads.

Last week, Denverite reported that 59 people have died walking, biking and driving on Denver streets so far this year, more than in all of 2017. The growing number of fatalities counters the city’s own goal for safe streets.

“We’ve just been moving way too slow in implementing the strategies of the Vision Zero action plan,” says Jill Locantore, executive director of Walk Denver. “If the city is serious about getting to zero fatalities by the year 2030, they need to start putting stuff on the ground today.”  

A 2015 rendering of what a two-way parking-protected bike lane might look like on lower Broadway. Image: City and County of Denver
A 2015 rendering of what a two-way parking-protected bike lane might look like on lower Broadway. Image: City and County of Denver.

But both Locantore and van Heuven are hopeful that changes planned for Broadway will make the corridor safer for pedestrians and cyclists (and restaurant patrons).

A plan that features street design upgrades, called Denver Moves Broadway, will add a bikeway separated from road traffic and other features to protect pedestrians. Narrowed streets and improved traffic signals will also encourage drivers to travel at safer speeds.

The city is designing the project now with construction expected to start in 2020. Denver voters funded the project when they approved the 10-year, $937-million “Elevate Denver GO Bond” in the fall of 2017.

“We can never say with 100 percent certainty that nothing’s ever going to happen again,” says Locantore about the project. “But it definitely would make it less likely.”

The latest crash at the Hornet happened at 2:15 a.m. on Saturday morning when a car slammed into the restaurant so fast that a 750-pound trash can on the sidewalk did little to impede the vehicle before it plowed past the building’s wooden frame and windows. Inside, the car barreled through the dining room before it finally stopped when it slammed into an interior wall.

An instant before the crash, an employee dashed out of the car’s path, a move that saved his life.

This year’s string of incidents is not the restaurant’s first clash with a car. Shortly before the Hornet opened 23 years ago, a driver slammed into its storefront, which prompted Workman to request the heavy concrete trash can, planters and bollards outside of the restaurant today—all of which have failed to prevent this year’s crashes.

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