As Deaths Surge, Mayor Asks Homeowners to Support Changes to Their Streets 

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announces street safety improvements. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announces street safety improvements. Photo: Andy Bosselman

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 of Bicycle Colorado delivers remarks after the mayor announced new street safety improvements. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Piep van Heuven of Bicycle Colorado delivers remarks after the mayor announced new street safety improvements. Photo: Andy Bosselman

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.”

You’re invited to the Streetsblog Scooter Debate August 12. Get free tickets here.

  • TakeFive

    Of the Top 25 causes of vehicle crashes only Deadly Curves @ #23 has anything to do with road design.

    I understand the ‘urban’ street objectives and that’s fine. But to denigrate the Honorable Mayor in favor of some future urban fantasy is a callous disregard of the facts and present reality. Push your agenda all you wish but you can do that without being disrespectful of Mayor Hancock who speaks ‘truth to power.’

    • TakeFive

      For anyone who’s unfamiliar, Denver Public Works is very busy implementing current bike lane plans including public outreach which you can learn about here:

      • Brian Jeffrey

        Mayor Hancock has been sitting on his hands since 2011 when he introduced the first of many, many unfunded, unattended “plans”, including Denver Moves, which sat DOA through 2015 when the city auditor called him out. Mayor Hancock is just in a panic reactionary mode to quell the outrage over his self-inflicted role in dozens of deaths and injury because people have had enough. As far as your link, we shall see if any of it actually gets done. Plans and promises are different that assets on the street. Note that several of the incomplete projects are promised for Summer 2019, which ends in a little more than a month. Mayor Hancock is getting precisely the respect he deserves. Several advocates and others have tried the pandering approach to getting things done, and the results speak for themselves – dismal. Time to insist on meaningful progress. That said, you can see a full list of band-aid promises made yesterday by following the link on this page. Feel free to hold the mayor and Denver Public Works accountable for implementation, on schedule, for these promises, and all of the bike infrastructure promises that are on the table.

        • TakeFive

          I appreciate it can be a painstaking and slow process. Such is the nature of government.

          Interestingly in the recent mayoral election Hancock was relentlessly criticized for his (perceived) lack of communication and public outreach; therefor the painful process of public outreach will be followed regardless of how long it takes.

          • Brian Jeffrey

            I completely do not understand your reply. Except that somehow you’re defending the mayor and consider 8 years of inaction that delivered the current situation is just the wheels of government turning slowly, and that it is perfectly okay.

    • Kyle

      I don’t think you are that obtuse. Surely you can understand that #2 (Speeding) on that list is greatly affected by poor road design. Our roads in Denver encourage speeding, and are designed to be traveled on faster than is safe for (semi) urban streets.

      Further, that link is about car crashes – not pedestrian related crashes.

      Distracted driving is certainly bad, and needs to be addressed. But the more we can make our roads fault-tolerant, the less impact distracted driving will have.

      • TakeFive

        I wasn’t arguing against “good” road design but your comment is well taken.

  • Cufflink

    I love the idea of this blog, but can you please post content that isn’t always about death and violence. Some uplifting news would be welcomed, at least occasionally.

    • Streetsblog Denver

      Thank you for your comment. It’s been a rough few weeks in Denver. We should lighten the mood. If any readers have some lighter or lighthearted story ideas please email ^AB

    • Mile Cargo

      Why would we want watered-down news and not the good, bad and the ugly altogether so we can face the truth with certainty and come up with proper mitigation? This isn’t a world of the make believe it’s not all fun and games.

  • Michelle Roche

    The city is going to take several immediate actions to make streets safer…and has finally taken a stronger stand supporting the addition of bike lanes which are proven to make streets safer for everyone…even drivers. Hallelujah! We need that vocal leadership. Thank you!

    The Denver Streets Partnership advocates for re-organizing street design as #1 one priority, arguing education alone won’t make something inherently dangerous other than what it is designed to be. I 100% agree. Others, like Mayor Hancock, also point out that people have to take responsibility for how they drive by abiding by speed limits, staying focused while driving, not driving while impaired, etc. I also agree! As a communication’s professional I’ve never understood the either or thinking. Alongside absolutely necessary infrastructure changes why not assist people to be mindful and accountable for their individual actions. They are complimentary. Couldn’t it just be that an arresting message campaign, making safe driving top of mind, aide in the acceptance of the change implications that re-organizing city streets will naturally bring? Seems like a no brainer.

    • Brian Jeffrey

      “assist people to be mindful and accountable for their individual actions.” I look forward to your suggestions, and implementation of a successful campaign. Many local and national entities have made significant efforts to curb texting and driving, for example, as well as attempts by legislative teams and law enforcement to impose extreme punitive penalty, none of which has made meaningful impact. Implementations such as requiring all cell phones to disable text and other functionality when a vehicle is in motion are viable solutions – begging campaigns and after-the-fact punishment hasn’t, and won’t, move the needle. As a communications professional, if you come up with an impactful campaign, you’ll have accomplished something none of your companions in the craft have been able to do before you.

      • Stephen Simac

        Education is not scolding. It’s a more powerful behavior shaper than enforcement and engineering over time, and certainly more cost effective, but has to be creative, continuous, from multiple sources to be accepted and followed. Enforcement is typically sporadic and unevenly applied. Engineering is extremely expensive as retrofits, and will have gaps in safety designs that won’t be obvious until observed, like Bike Lanes.

  • kyle

    I’m a cyclist and I oppose these upgrades because they are half assed and too inconsistent from one street to the next. This leaves drivers, cyclists, scooters and skaters confused regarding right of way and such, which increases the opportunity for peril, rather than reduce the risk.

    Related but unrelated….. Hancock is using the cyclist deaths as another platform to justify a car free city which, in turn makes it more developer friendly. If developers aren’t required to build skyscrapers with parking space, they make substantially more $$$$$. Everyone wins, except the people that live here! Cheers!

  • Mile Cargo

    We need to increase the amount of funding that is directed to our transportation infrastructure. That, alongside proper planning, will open doors to studying corridors that we never dreamed of studying. We have to make a huge financial focus on this or Denver is going to be in some BIG trouble. Funding and good planning will make our communities soar to higher heights in terms of business, family productivity, and saving our commuters precious TIME FROM THEIR LIVES SPENT ON THE ROAD.

  • Mile Cargo

    To go to extreme heights in order to accommodate a single mode of transport is infrastructure suicide. Bikes require a lot of space to operate safely in our streets (or adjacent to them). This is precious space that could be used by buses and cars. People want to drive cars, we can’t force them to ride bicycles. Although I believe bicycle transport interconnected with bus rapid transit would be PHENOMENAL, we don’t have that. Furthermore, nobody wants to do it. We would need showers at every single facility for those who work up a sweat. There are a myriad of items that need to be in place for the bike-everywhere concept to work. We must keep cyclists safe, but we must expand and make smarter our roadways and highways or we are going to see gridlock in our beautiful city like Los Angeles.

    I appreciate the idyllic concept of biking everywhere, but we are not and never will be Copenhagen. It is easy to conjure up these ideas, but once you get to the engineering, and looking at impacts to vehicular traffic, and costs to implement, then you start to see the reality of the beast we’re facing.



Wednesday’s Headlines

Two more people died on Denver streets amid a hit-and-run rate of 22 percent. Bicyclist Tom Fields believes the driver of an SUV intentionally hit him before fleeing the scene. Power disruptions cancelled rail service on RTD’s E, F, H, and R lines. More headlines.
Brendan Hanlon discusses the mayor's 2020 budget proposal. Photo: Andy Bosselman

Tuesday’s Headlines

Mayor will continue transportation and climate investments in budget proposal. Transit, the trip-planning app, now sells RTD tickets. Two competing carbon tax measures could be on next year's Denver ballot. More headlines ...