Montbello Event Highlights Neglect of Pedestrian Safety in Latino & Black Neighborhood
One by one, cars sped toward Silverman Park in Montbello on Saturday. But drivers slowed when they approached the park’s entrance, where a series of traffic cones and pastel-painted tires tightened the normally wide lanes of Andrews Drive. Volunteers put the cones and tires there as part of a “pop-up traffic calming demonstration” in the mostly Latino and black neighborhood. They wanted to show how simple, low-cost safety improvements could improve children’s access to the park, and how the dangerous street keeps people away.
“This is a 25 mph zone and they’re coming in here at 58 mph,” said Pam Jiner, who used a radar gun to clock how fast drivers were going. “Why can’t the kids walk to this park? Because of the speeds. No crosswalks. No stop signs.”
Jiner, a community advocate affiliated with GirlTrek Denver and Montbello Walks, grew up in Montbello. She says the city has always ignored the neighborhood, and now the community lacks many of the pedestrian safety elements being installed in more affluent neighborhoods. District 11 Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore agreed.
“We’re trying to get some of the cool, urban design elements from the downtown core to the suburban areas,” she said. “What I’d like to see is, ‘What’s the temporary cost of doing this and when can we start implementing it?’”
The Department of Public Works has installed crosswalks and temporary pedestrian refuges in more affluent neighborhoods, like Sloan’s Lake, where installing paint and plastic posts cost just $6,000 per intersection. Such a treatment at Silverman Park could cost between $10,000 and $30,000, according to Nancy Kuhn, a spokesperson for DPW.
The department is studying improvements around the park entrance, she says, which has no stop signs or even a crosswalk. In an e-mail, Kuhn’s mention of two crashes that happened there in the last three years seemed to imply that the department considered the number insignificant. She also says the department has counted few pedestrians there, which Gilmore expected.
“My concern is that when [DPW sees] the pedestrian counts, they’re going to say it’s too low to justify the traffic calming measures,” she said. But the dangerous streets may be why people don’t walk to the park in the first place, she added. “We would get out of our cars if we felt safe and protected doing that.”
DPW also recorded average speeds of just 30 mph near the park. But Streetsblog observed Jiner clocking at least a dozen drivers over a roughly seven minute period. Most, if not all, approached the park at well over 30 mph. One driver hit 53 mph, more than twice the posted speed limit. Earlier in the day, Jiner recorded a driver speeding by at 58 mph.
Gilmore also expressed concern about DPW’s slow progress in her district. When she took office four years ago, she and several community groups wanted to install a decorative crosswalk along the busy Green Valley Ranch Boulevard on the Evie Garrett Dennis public school campus. But she says officials at DPW have shown more concern for drivers than the children, and have so-far prevented its installation.
“After four years, we still couldn’t get it installed,” she said. “They were worried the crosswalk would be an impediment to drivers.”
But Jiner thinks Saturday’s event shows good momentum for improving pedestrian safety around the park, and in her neighborhood.
“I think we’ve got enough pull to get a stop sign. We’ve got enough pull to get a crosswalk. We’ve got enough pull to put planters in the ‘no parking’ areas to keep cars out, so that people can see our kids,” she said. “We’ve been neglected for 53 years. It’s time to start getting some of the things we need.”