By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4)– Pedestrian deaths along Federal Boulevard have some calling for a plan to make the street safer and commit to funding those changes as the Denver Public Works prepares to reveal the final version of a major initiate to address this very issue.
“People shouldn’t be killed or seriously injured as a consequence of mobility,” said Heather Burke with the City and County of Denver.
A man crossing Federal Boulevard in June nearly was struck by one car and then the next day was hit by a different car while he tried to cross that same street. His death is one of several the non-profit Walk Denver has counted so far this year.
“This really is an urgent public health issue,” said Jill Locantore with the group. “People are literally dying just trying to get around on Federal.”
Vision Zero hopes to address spots along Federal Boulevard that are not safe for people trying to walk along the street or cross at intersections. The goal of the initiative launched by the City is to have zero traffic deaths by 2030.
Walk Denver advocates for aggressive plans like Vision Zero and wants to make Denver the most walkable city in the country.
“Making these changes to the actual design of the street is really what we need to do to get to zero fatalities,” said Locantore.
Projects that could start by the end of this year along Federal include leading pedestrian intervals. Changes to traffic signals would delay a green light for drivers until pedestrians had enough time to not only start crossing at an intersection but make their way to the middle of the crosswalk. The hope is to make pedestrians more visible to drivers before they are legally allowed to move into the street.
“We’re taking this seriously,” said Burke. “We’re going to be making a lot of improvements along Federal; it’s a priority for us.”
Vision Zero also calls for raised medians, more sidewalks, and improvements to crosswalks. Public Works also says it has a major construction project along a stretch of Federal that runs from Holden Place to 7th Avenue.
“Generally we think pedestrian safety should be the top consideration for any of these decisions,” said Locantore.
Walk Denver says a street like Federal needs refuge islands for pedestrians to have a spot in the middle of the street to stand on while trying to cross several lanes. They also want to see lanes dedicated to buses and the speed lowered. They also hope state law can be changed so automated speed enforcement will be allowed on Federal. Their research shows that fewer citations would be given but more drivers would slow down and keep people walking on the street safer.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has outlined $31 million for street repairs and traffic safety in his 2018 budget but it has yet to be approved by the Denver City Council. The final plan for Vision Zero will be released in October.
“The Vision Zero Action Plan sets out a great strategy for how we can make our streets safer,” said Locantore. “Now the city needs to back that up with funding and actual on the ground projects.”