Inauguration: Hancock Calls for Safer Streets, Advocates Hope He Will Deliver
Mayor Hancock kicked off his third and final term today by calling for lower speed limits and better designed streets to keep cyclists and pedestrians safer in an “urgent” attempt to take back control of the streets from reckless car owners.
“Our streets must change to make way for more transit riders, bike riders and pedestrians,” he said in his inauguration speech on the steps of City Hall this morning. “And we must continue to strive for greater safety, with more measures implemented to reduce speeds and reduce conflicts between modes, so fewer and fewer people, until we reach zero, are losing their lives on our streets.”
Without the pressure of reelection, many livable streets advocates hope the mayor will use his last mandate to deliver on his promise of “bold, energetic and visionary leadership” by pushing more aggressively to install protected bike lanes and reverse the 38 percent increase in traffic fatalities this year, which follows rising fatalities in the two years since his Vision Zero pledge to end all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
“I want to be able to be move around Denver without fear of injury or death — and we’re not there yet,” said Rob Toftness, a bicycle advocate who watched the ceremony from a sidewalk in front of City Hall. “The fact that he doesn’t have to worry about reelection, I hope that he can take some brave chances on biking, walking, mobility and transit.”
After the ceremony, Streetsblog asked the mayor if the city will move faster to deliver such changes, even over vocal NIMBY protests, like those happening now around changes to a bike lane on Marion Street near Washington Park.
“You don’t waste a third term to expedite, to do things more boldly,” he said. “But you have to be thoughtful about it as well.”
Citing neighborhood backlash after making street design changes in the past, the mayor stressed the need for community engagement.
“Where we have planned for but not communicated with the community very well, people wake up one morning and all of a sudden the street has changed. And that’s not okay,” he said. “So we gotta be smart on how we engage people and inform the community.”
During his speech, the mayor stood before a crowd of supporters, city workers and elected officials who fanned themselves under Colorado’s intense sunlight. Protestors shouted over him several times, forcing the mayor to raise his voice to be heard. Police removed a woman who entered a secure area and disrupted the speech with her cries. But other protestors were allowed to shout about a range of issues, including the recent culling of geese in City Park and homelessness.
“End the urban camping ban,” shouted Kalyn Heffernan, a self-described artist, freedom fighter and wheelchair user who ran against the mayor.
Several elected officials were also sworn in, including members of the City Council. Among the five new council members, several campaigned further to the left of the mayor’s typically moderate politics and are expected to change the dynamics of the council. Tonight the body will vote on a controversial contract that would widen Peña Boulevard, the road to Denver International Airport.