In Denver, 40 percent of all city street lengths have no sidewalk at all, or a sidewalk that is too narrow for wheelchairs or other mobility devices, which some believe are contributing to an uptick in pedestrian accidents.

Public Gets Role in Plotting Developments

After two years of work, Denver planners recently unveiled initial proposals for a multi-decade plan to develop pedestrian access across the city, according to a report by The Denver Post’s Jon Murray. The plans carry a hefty price tag.

The 71-page draft, “Denver Moves: Pedestrians and Trails,” was generated through the city’s Denveright process. Denveright has held dozens of public meetings and gathered thousands of ideas and views on a wide range of city plans it is developing. This set focuses on prioritizing projects that could fill gaps in sidewalks across the city.

The draft prioritizes sidewalk and trail projects and recommends standards for retrofitting older sidewalks. The plan says 40 percent of city street lengths either lack sidewalks or has walks narrower than the 4 feet required for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. In low-income areas, 47 percent of street lengths lack sidewalks or have inferior sidewalks.

The plan will undergo administrative review and likely be adopted soon. Ultimately, it will require approval by Denver City Council. Planners hope it will help the city implement projects mandated by voters in the recent $937 million bond package.

The projected cost: $800 million to $1.4 billion, depending on how much of the project the public is willing to pay for. The higher figure would allow the city to complete the city’s trail network and to widen existing sidewalks to meet current city standards. Today, Denver leaves it to property owners to build and maintain sidewalks on their land.

The plan will probably take decades to complete, depending on the public’s willingness to pay for the projects, the plan says. If the city devotes $40 million per year, the plan will take 27.5 years to complete.

In the earliest phases, some homeowners will be able to qualify for city sidewalk assistance through a $4 million fund.

Plans Take Solid Approach to Walkway Shortage

The Denver Moves pedestrian plan outlines some concrete steps toward achieving goals put forth through other initiatives, such as Denver’s Vision Zero, that want to make city streets safer for pedestrians.

In Denver, there have been more than 100 pedestrian accident fatalities since January 2016, according to Vision Zero statistics. Staff members analyzed the accidents and located hot spots that are in the greatest need of fixing. Federal Boulevard and Colfax Avenue are high on the list.

By Nov. 27, at least 79 pedestrians had died on streets and roads across Colorado in 2017, a statistic on a trajectory to exceed 2016’s total, 84.

More Denveright Plans Cooking

Denverright is pursuing three or four other initiatives besides sidewalks and trails, The Post reported:

  • The Denver Parks and Recreation Game Plan
  • The Blueprint Denver master plan for land use and transportation
  • The Denver Moves transit plan
  • A possible update of Denver’s 2000 comprehensive plan

Each of the objectives faces a number of hurdles before it can be implemented, problems that will have to be solved by Mayor Michael Hancock and those who follow him.

Brad Buchanan, Denver’s director of community planning and development, told The Post the community’s involvement in drafting the pedestrian plan will help it address concerns about affordability, equity, and particularly development’s tendency to force people out of their neighborhoods.

To that end, Buchanan said:

“We’re not going to change the physics of capitalism or the real estate markets with our plans, but our plans can help to address some of the downsides of those issues.”

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