As Deaths Surge, Mayor Asks Homeowners to Support Changes to Their Streets
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced on Wednesday that he will lower speed limits and make street safety upgrades happen faster in several parts of the Mile High City — and called on opponents of bike lanes and other life-saving infrastructure to stand down as the city finally confronts its rise in road fatalities and its destructive, car-based “culture.”
The move comes after the deaths of two Denver bicyclists last month jolted the city and added to a fast-rising list of fatalities on Denver streets, which have increased 49 percent this year compared to the same point last year.
“Unfortunately we’re on track for another record year of crash-related deaths on our streets,” Hancock said. “We’ve had two recent deaths and we hear the community’s call for us to do more to prevent these tragedies.”
Drivers have killed 49 people on Denver streets this year, compared to 33 at this point last year. And 2018 was itself an especially deadly year. But across the city, neighbors continue to oppose street safety upgrades, including on Marion Street Parkway, even after the death of bicyclist Alexis Bounds, who was the mother of two young boys.
To those opposed to new bike lanes, Mayor Hancock has a message.
“We send this request to our residents of Denver. Work with us,” he said. “As we come down your streets, we need to make sure we create multi-modal opportunities for all residents. Our city, our culture, is shifting. And in order to keep people safe, we need to make sure we are able to move forward with the implementation of these bike lanes.”
Piep van Heuven, who spoke on behalf of the Denver Streets Partnership, echoed the mayor’s call for less heated conversations as the city works to install street infrastructure changes that have been shown to save lives.
“Advocates, neighbors, and businesses, can step up, speak up and say yes to re-organizing our streets,” she said with the mayor at her side. “Because safety, for our coworkers, our families and neighbors — and our kids — is more important than speeding to get where you are going.”
Until the city can make permanent safety upgrades, like those that proposed along Marion Street, the Mayor announced several quick changes his administration intends to implement in the coming months, including:
- Reducing speed limits on five corridors
- Adding several high-visibility crosswalks downtown
- Installing pedestrian crossing posts in the middle of the street in 10 locations
- Enhancing some protected bike lanes with rubber stoppers to create a clearer separation from traffic, including along the 15th Street bikeway to Larimer Street
- Adding five electronic “driver feedback” signs to the backs of city vehicles to alert drivers of their speeds
- Building on-street bike corrals at 12 locations
But for all of the mayor’s talk of better infrastructure, he also questioned its value when he suggested that street design is less important than shaming people into driving better.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of distracted drivers,” he said. “Government alone is not going to solve this problem, we all have a responsibility to be more aware.”
But Jill Locantore, of WalkDenver countered that castigating drivers will not save many lives, but changing the physical design of streets can.
“Scolding people to behave more safely is only going to go so far when our system is dangerous by design,” she said after the mayor’s comments. “The reality is that our streets are designed to encourage dangerous behaviors and to create conflict between people who are using different modes of travel to get around.”
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