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Archive of posts filed under the Infrastructure category.

Groundbreaking on Brighton Boulevard Signals Fever Pitch for RiNo Development

by Camron Bridgford

The rapid transformation of Denver’s River North (RiNo) District from industrial thoroughfare to successfully modish commercial, residential and artistic district took another major step this past week with the groundbreaking of the Brighton Boulevard Corridor Redevelopment on October 13.


Hosted by Mayor Michael Hancock, City Council President Albus Brooks—whose district includes RiNo—and the RiNo Art District, the redevelopment project will be completed in four phases and is touted by the City of Denver as another critical opportunity to revitalize Denver’s downtown neighborhoods in an increasingly competitive and vibrant urban environment.

Located along the northern strip of Denver that inelegantly connects downtown to the I-70 corridor, Brighton Boulevard and its history is nearly as old as Denver itself, with its first developments taking place in the mid-1870s. By post-World War II, the boulevard was primarily sprinkled with industrial, commercial and automobile businesses, which over time slid from a cohesive streetscape into an area wrought with growing inattention and vacancy.


In more recent years, as nearby streets in RiNo—primarily Blake, Walnut, and Larimer between 25th and 34th streets—began to receive city-wide attention for their artistic, gritty vibe and potential as a collective haven for innovative businesses, restaurants and galleries, Brighton Boulevard began to develop in a similar yet distinct pattern, one that favored creative and eclectic mixed-use spaces such as The Source, Industry and nearby Taxi across the South Platte River.

However, despite the success of its several artisan markets and shared spaces, Brighton Boulevard still lacked many aesthetic, safety and transportation features necessary to make it more attractive for investment that could result in a proliferation of residential, commercial and business use. Such amenities include improved sidewalks, adequate street lighting, landscaping and infrastructure, such as bike lanes, that encourage multi-modal transit.

This will soon change with the now-launched redevelopment project, which will take place in four distinct phases, the first of which will address improvements from 29th to 40th streets, including the addition of six signalized intersections at 29th, 31st, 33rd, 35th, 38th and 44th streets; 80 on-street parking spaces; sidewalks on both sides of the boulevard; a continuous bike lane in both directions; pedestrian crosswalks; street lighting; and light fixtures, benches and native plant landscaping. Further, it should be noted that an affordable live/work and mixed use building for creatives is being developed at 41st Street and Brighton Boulevard so as to preserve the artistic character that originally made RiNo an attractive place for investment.


Phase one of the project—which includes three distinct stages of construction to tackle the noted improvements—is anticipated to take 18 months to complete, with the final stages of landscaping wrapping by Spring 2018. Kiewit Infrastructure Company out of Omaha, Nebraska will serve as the builder.

The final three phases of the redevelopment—not yet slated with many hard dates, but which will address 40th-44th streets, 44th-47th streets, and 47th Street to Race Court—includes addressing the part of Brighton Boulevard that serves as an underpass underneath I-70 (in concurrence with the I-70 reconstruction), as well as the fourth and final phase coinciding with enhancements made via the National Western Center Master Plan. Construction for this final phase is expected to begin in 2019.


Typically, the largest hurdle that public infrastructure investments of this size face is coming up with the financing to realize its intended vision. However, that river appears forged for Brighton Boulevard, with a committed $26 million investment from the City and County of Denver, including $2.5 million proposed in 2017 alone. The Brighton Boulevard Corridor Redevelopment will also benefit from an additional $3 million raised by the RiNo General Improvement District, which is responsible for financing the pedestrian-scale lighting, plantings and benches along the boulevard, in addition to maintenance costs once the project is completed.


Overall, this contribution signals a significant financial bet for the city, with Brighton Boulevard being one of largest Capital Improvement Funds projects in the city’s 2017 proposed budget. Comparatively, other capital investments projected for 2017 include sidewalk gaps and safety repair budgeted at $2.5 million; bike infrastructure at $500,000; South Broadway multi-modal improvements at $470,000; and traffic signal infrastructure across Denver at $3.6 million. For further comparison, one of the highest-profile expenditures for 2017—increased funding for the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing—may include $5 million from the city’s reserves, but will primarily be funded by $10 million garnered from new tax and impact fees.

Overall, the city’s vision for Brighton Boulevard sees residents and visitors no longer needing to make do with an underdeveloped backdoor in and out of downtown, but rather having access to a mainstay gateway between the airport and the urban core that lends itself to increasingly vibrant residential and commercial uses. With the opening of the University of Colorado A Line earlier this year, including the 38th and Blake commuter rail station that lies adjacent to this project, we are eager to see if the intended return on investment occurs, and look forward to monitoring its progress.


Camron Bridgford is a master’s candidate in urban and regional planning at the University of Colorado Denver, with a particular interest in the use and politics of public space as it relates to urban revitalization, culture and placemaking, and community development. She also works as a freelance writer to investigate urban-related issues and serves as a non-profit consultant.

Lipstick on a Pig: Painting the I-70 Viaduct

This weekend, urban artists took to the streets to paint a stretch of aging Denver infrastructure. With only a limited amount of life left, the I-70 viaduct now has a splash of color, adding beauty to a steel and concrete beast.

The stretch between Brighton Boulevard and York was closed on Saturday for this event. There were multiple booths with fall activities, and Q&A about the future of the highway. A stage sat in the center of the closed-off section with performances echoing throughout the area. I never took the time to explore around here but there was a beauty to it; a hulking old structure, with a gathering of people adding wonderful colors was a great sight to see.

2016-10-02_i70viaduct-01 2016-10-02_i70viaduct-02

From colorful portraits to realistic three dimensional scenes, there was a lot to see. Kids, adults, amateurs and professionals were lined up painting their own canvas along the concrete walls and curbs.

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With the streets closed, echoing music, and cars driving overhead, this was a great experience; even with the potent smell of dog and cat food. Here are two ‘aerial’ perspectives of the art.


Art gives personality to any part of the city, even in the most unlikely places. As strange of a place as this is, this art really livens up this dark, drab corridor.

What’s next for the viaduct? Via CDOT: “The Central 70 project proposes to reconstruct a 10-mile stretch of I-70 East, add one new Express Lane in each direction, remove the aging 50-year old viaduct, lower the interstate between Brighton and Colorado boulevards, and place a four-acre cover over a portion of the lowered interstate.”

RiNo Infrastructure Part 9: Blake Street Conversion and Broadway Cycle Track

With this post we wrap up our recent series on infrastructure investments in the River North district. Previously, we looked at RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction, Part 4: River North Park, Part 5: Delgany Festival Street, Part 6: River North Promenade, Part 7: RiNo Pedestrian Bridge and Part 8: 35th Street Woonerf.

On this Google Earth aerial I’ve outlined the general extent of the Blake Street and Broadway improvements discussed in this post. Click to biggify.


The Blake Street two-way conversion/bike lanes and Broadway cycle track project is fairly straightforward:

Blake Street, from 35th to Broadway, is currently a one-way street with two overly-wide vehicle lanes heading southwest-bound, parking lanes on both sides of the street, and no bicycle infrastructure. With this project, Blake Street will be converted to two-way traffic—a 10′ vehicle lane in each direction—with 6′ striped bicycle lanes in each direction and 8′ curbside parking lanes on both sides of the street. Northeast of 35th Street, Blake is already a two-way street.

Here is Blake Street today, looking southwest from around 28th Street:


Back a few years ago, Larimer Street looked similar to how Blake Street does today: a multi-lane one-way street with no bicycle infrastructure. Thanks to a 2011 project by Denver Public Works, Larimer Street is now a two-way street with bicycle lanes and on-street parking, much like what is proposed for Blake Street.


Broadway, between Blake and 29th Street, is a modern roadway that was constructed in the early 2000s as part of the removal of the old Broadway viaduct. It features wide (16′) pedestrian walkways on both sides of the street that are separated from the vehicle lanes by concrete walls and fencing for much of this stretch. These walkways will be converted to shared-use paths with the addition of a cycle track in each direction.


Pavement striping and signage will delineate the pedestrian and bicycle zones within each path. At 29th Street, the cycle tracks will connect to the new cycle tracks planned as part of the big Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction project that will start construction very soon.


If some of you are thinking “With Blake being converted to two-way, there’s no point in keeping Walnut as a one-way street since Walnut and Blake operate as a one-way couplet”—you’d be right! The conversion of Walnut northeast of Broadway to two-way with bike lanes will likely happen in the future. According to the Northeast Downtown Neighborhoods Plan (2011), Walnut is identified as a street with good potential for conversion to two-way. From the plan: “Evaluate conversion of Walnut contingent on significant redevelopment along this street that eliminates most of the existing loading docks. This recommendation is long-term and reliant on land use changes.” The city will soon begin a study of Walnut to evaluate the situation given the intense redevelopment activity in the area.

The Blake Street two-way conversion/bike lanes and Broadway cycle track project represents another important step in more fairly balancing the use of the public right-of-way in the Downtown area between different transportation modes. Work on the Blake Street project is scheduled for late August 2016. Thank you Denver Public Works… keep up the good work!

While this may be the end of our current series on RiNo, this won’t be the last of our coverage of new infrastructure in the area. We’ll continue to spotlight these and other projects as they move forward. Nor is list of projects we covered in this series exhaustive either. Additional projects such as new sidewalks around the 38th and Blake station, the rebuilding of the Blake Street bridge over 38th Street and other small but critical improvements here and there are helping elevate River North’s outdated industrial-era streets into a walkable/bikeable public realm suitable for an urban, transit-oriented, mixed-use district.

Denver’s Civic Center Station Reconstruction Gets Underway

The long-awaited reconstruction of RTD’s Civic Center Station started this morning with a “pillar-toppling” ceremony to begin the demolition of the current station. Check out our video of the event:

Civic Center opened in the early 1980s as part of the 16th Street Mall project and served as RTD’s Upper Downtown terminal with its Lower Downtown counterpart at Market Street Station. Market Street Station closed in 2014 when RTD’s Union Station Bus Concourse opened. The former Market Street Station site will be redeveloped into a mixed-use project by Continuum Partners.

Per RTD, the new Civic Center Station will feature:

  • Nine bus bays
  • Glass-enclosed terminal building
  • Bus concourse rebuild
  • Bus ramp extension connecting Broadway to Lincoln
  • Open view from 16th Street Mall to the State Capitol
  • Building structure that is easier to maintain and repair long-term
  • More open and welcoming environment
  • Land parcel preserved for future development opportunities

Here are a few renderings, courtesy of RTD, Mortenson Construction, Perkins Eastman, and SEH. You’ll note minor variations in the station design among these renderings. I’m not sure which is the most recent, but these will give you a good general idea of what the new station will look like.

Bird’s-eye view towards the State Capitol:


Street-level view crossing Broadway:


Another street-level view crossing Broadway:


View from station’s upper level:


In addition to the station’s revitalization, the City, RTD, and the Downtown Denver Partnership recently completed the Civic Center Transit District Plan. You can visit the plan’s page here where you can also download a PDF copy of the plan document.

This is an image I extracted from the plan document that shows another view of the station design concept:


An interesting aspect of the new Civic Center Station design is the bus loading zone between Broadway and Lincoln north of Colfax. It appears this design feature will allow southbound buses from Broadway to be able to turn left, load/unload passengers, and then turn north onto Lincoln without having to make left turns onto and from Colfax. Traffic turning movements onto Colfax from Broadway and onto Lincoln from Colfax represent major conflict areas with pedestrians in the crosswalk, so this design feature is a welcome improvement.

Finally, you’ll note the grassy area between Colfax and this new bus loading zone. What could go in that area in both the short-term and long-term is discussed in the Civic Center Transit District Plan linked to above. Please do check it out.

The reconstruction of Denver’s Civic Center Station is not only a big win for RTD but for all of Downtown Denver. It will greatly improve the pedestrian experience in the Upper Downtown end of the 16th Street Mall and the Civic Center Park area, and will provide a fresh, modern counterpart to the new transit facilities at Union Station.

We will track this project through to completion, estimated at 15-18 months.

RiNo Infrastructure Part 8: 35th Street Woonerf

In Part 8 of our RiNo Infrastructure series, we take a look at the improvements proposed for 35th Street, a key east-west connector for the River North neighborhood. Previous posts in this series include RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction, Part 4: River North Park, Part 5: Delgany Festival Street, Part 6: River North Promenade, and Part 7: RiNo Pedestrian Bridge.

What is a woonerf? It’s a Dutch term (pronounced VONE-erf) for a street that is designed primarily for pedestrians and bicyclists while still allowing motor vehicle access at slow speeds. Popularized in Europe, a woonerf functions as a shared, social space somewhat like a linear plaza while still providing local access to vehicles. A woonerf design typically uses more subtle infrastructure elements such as bollards, landscaping, and different paving materials to distinguish the areas where pedestrians, bikes, and vehicles travel rather than the traditional curb, sidewalk, and bike lane.

35th Street between Arkins Court and Wazee Street is a perfect candidate to be redesigned as a woonerf. First, it isn’t a through street for motor vehicle traffic; it’s only four blocks long and is blocked by the river on one end and railroad tracks on the other. Second and more critically, 35th Street is identified as a prime east-west pedestrian/bike corridor through RiNo as it will connect the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge over the river with the 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge over the railroad tracks and run adjacent to the planned River North Park.

Here is a diagram from a recent presentation provided by the city’s North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative showing a conceptual cross-section for 35th Street:


An example of something similar to a woonerf in Denver may be the newly redesigned Fillmore Plaza in Cherry Creek North. It has several features found in a woonerf, such as the street and sidewalk being at the same grade and a strong pedestrian-focused design. Here’s a Google Earth street view image of Fillmore Plaza:


Here’s a Google Street View image of the Bell Street woonerf in Seattle:

As River North transitions from an automobile-oriented industrial zone to a multi-mode mixed-use district, transforming 35th into a great pedestrian street will be key in that evolution. The combination of the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge + River North Park + 35th Street Woonerf + 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge has the potential to have the same transformative impact on connecting River North to the rest of Denver as the Highland Bridge + 16th Street Plaza + Platte River Bridge + Commons Park + Riverfront Park Plaza + Millennium Bridge combination did in connecting Lower Highland with Downtown Denver.

The images below show 35th Street in its current rough-around-the-edges state:



Currently, the 35th Street Woonerf is in the conceptual design stage. Funding for construction has not yet been identified, but paying for the 35th Street Woonerf could come from a variety of sources including potentially the city, local improvement districts, and adjacent developments.

Next up in this series: Blake Street Two-Way Conversion + Bike Lanes. Stay tuned!

Denver Rolls Out New 29th Avenue/15th Street Bike Lanes

Denver Public Works is in the final stages of implementing a major new east-west bicycle connection through Northwest Denver. Stretching about 2.3 miles from Sheridan Boulevard to just past Central Street on the downtown street grid, the new West 29th Avenue/15th Street bike lanes make bicycling along the corridor a safer experience and provide a more equitable balance in the use of the public right-of-way between automobiles and bicycles.


New northwest-bound bike lane on 15th Street between Central and Boulder streets.

Along different segments of the corridor, the existing lane configurations were changed to accommodate the new bike lanes. For example, from Sheridan to Lowell, curbside parking was removed on one side of West 29th Avenue to make room to add the bike lanes. Between Lowell and Federal, enough space was freed up for the bike lanes by eliminating a center turn lane.


Google Earth aerial with the extent of the new 29th Avenue/15th Street bike line highlighted in yellow.

Between Federal and Speer, the former condition was a mess of travel lanes, turn lanes, and striped islands that made for a confusing drive for motorists and a daunting experience for bicyclists:


The previous condition of 29th Avenue between Federal and Speer included a confusing mess of travel and turn lanes. Source: Google Earth

Now under the new configuration, it’s pretty simple: one travel lane in each direction for motor vehicles, a buffered lane in each direction for bicyclists, and curbside parking along the south side of the street:


Diagram showing new street cross-section for West 29th Avenue between Speer and Federal. Source: City and County of Denver

West 29th Avenue also received a road diet between Umatilla and Clay streets, where previously there were two westbound and one eastbound travel lanes. One of the westbound lanes was eliminated to squeeze in the new bike lanes. However, in the process, West 29th Avenue picked up a new curbside parking lane between Umatilla and Zuni that hadn’t existed before.

Likewise, in the one-block stretch of 15th Street between Central and Boulder/Umatilla (collision of the street grids!), there were two northwest-bound lanes and one southeast-bound lane. One of the northwest-bound lanes was removed to make room for the bike lane, as can be seen in the photo below. Unfortunately, there’s currently not enough room for a southeast-bound bike lane.

One northwest-bound travel lane and new bicycle lane on 15th Street between Central and Boulder streets.

Finally, an important lane reconfiguration that everyone needs to be aware of occurs on the 15th Street bridge over I-25. To transition from two northwest-bound lanes to one, the right lane on the bridge becomes a right-turn-only lane for Central Street:


New lane configuration on the 15th Street bridge over Interstate 25.

To see maps and before-and-after diagrams of all of the different segments of this project, check out this presentation by Public Works from a November 2015 public meeting.

While this is a huge improvement for biking in Northwest Denver, there’s still the big gap in the bicycle network on 15th Street between Central Street and LoDo. That missing link is being studied by Public Works this year, so hopefully by the end of 2016 or early 2017, a design solution for providing a safe and convenient bicycle connection between Lower Highland and Lower Downtown will be identified.

The new West 29th Avenue/15th Street bicycle connection was a recommended project in the Denver Moves: Bicycles plan, and it is very exciting to see this and many other new bicycle infrastructure projects being implemented throughout the city. Thank you Denver Public Works!

Oh, happy Bike to Work Day too!

Damaged Road? Fix It Immediately! Damaged Sidewalk? Forget It!

Last Sunday, a section of Buckley Road in Aurora buckled due to the extreme heat we’ve been experiencing lately, according to a report by 9News. Here’s a photo of the damage, courtesy of 9News:


Of course, this is a major public safety issue. Drivers could lose control of their vehicles if they sped over the broken concrete unaware, potentially injuring themselves and others and causing damage to vehicles and property. So, the street was immediately blocked off and street crews were quickly dispatched to fix the situation. By Monday afternoon, road repairs had been completed and the street was reopened. While this particular incident happened to be in Aurora, it could have just as easily occurred on a Denver street, and Denver Public Works would have responded similarly if it had.

And then there are sidewalks—you know, the streets equivalent for pedestrians. If a Denver sidewalk has crumbling concrete or buckled joints that pose a serious trip hazard to pedestrians, does the city of Denver fix the situation as quickly as they would if a street had suffered similar damage? Have Denver Public Works crews rushed into my neighborhood to fix this sidewalk segment down the block from me?


Of course they have not. In Denver, private property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk adjacent to their property, even though the sidewalk is located within the city-owned public right-of-way. Damaged sidewalk segments like the one pictured above can be found ten thousand times over throughout the city, yet there is virtually no enforcement of the city’s sidewalk maintenance policies. According to Streetsblog Denver, the city cited only 16 property owners in 2015 for failing to fix the sidewalks in front of their property.

The solution is not better enforcement of the current policy. The current policy itself is absurd. Can you imagine if the city took the same policy approach and required property owners to fix the potholes in the streets in front of their homes? What we need in Denver is for the city to treat sidewalks as critical transportation infrastructure that’s on equal standing with streets, with the city taking responsibility for the construction and maintenance of our public sidewalk network.

Fortunately, there is strong interest in doing just that, thanks to groups like WalkDenver. The city recently launched the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee and District 6 City Councilman Paul Kashmann is leading the Council’s new Sidewalks Working Group to “determine policies and funding mechanisms that will improve our pedestrian infrastructure while making paying for sidewalks less burdensome than our current system….” Even the Denver Post agrees that the status quo is unacceptable.

In my opinion, a citywide sidewalk fee that would generate dedicated revenue for the city to take over the construction and maintenance of all public sidewalks is the most comprehensive and equitable solution. But regardless of whether you support a sidewalk fee or a different approach, if you believe the city’s current policies abdicating responsibility for Denver’s sidewalks are unacceptable, please contact Mayor Michael Hancock and Councilman Kashmann and let them know that. You should also plan to participate in DenverMoves: Pedestrian and Trails, part of the city’s new Denveright planning initiative.

Walking is the default mode of human transportation. You’d think Denver would make having an outstanding pedestrian network its default transportation priority.

RiNo Infrastructure Part 7: RiNo Pedestrian Bridge

Part 7 of our RiNo Infrastructure series focuses on the proposed RiNo Pedestrian Bridge over the South Platte River. Previous posts in this series include RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction, Part 4: River North Park, Part 5: Delgany Festival Street, and Part 6: River North Promenade.

Denver’s River North district generally consists of three major areas: the area west of the South Platte River, the area between the river and the Union Pacific/RTD railroad tracks, and the area east of the railroad tracks. Much like how the 35th and 38th Street pedestrian bridges help connect the middle and eastern parts of RiNo together, the proposed RiNo Pedestrian Bridge over the river will help connect the middle and western parts of RiNo. The RiNo Pedestrian Bridge will be built at the foot of 35th Street, as can be seen in this diagram on the planned River North Park:


These photographs show the proposed approximate location of the bridge’s eastern end at Arkins Court and 35th Street:

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The city recently started preliminary (30%) design for the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge after receiving public input over the past year or so through several public meetings and web surveys. The design work is being paid for by the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative and the city’s Office of Economic Development and should be finished by the end of the summer. Having a preliminary design will then allow for cost estimates to be made and for fundraising to begin to help pay for the bridge’s construction. Completion of the 100% design is targeted for 1st Quarter 2017, while fundraising will continue throughout the year. Ideally, sufficient money will be raised by the end of 2017 to allow for bridge construction to begin in 2018.

Based on cost, constructability, and public input, a suspension bridge is the type of bridge chosen for this project. Designing and building the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge is a public/private/non-profit partnership, with the City representing the public sector, Zeppelin Development and potentially other RiNo property owners and businesses representing the private sector, and Bridges to Prosperity representing the non-profit sector. The image below, courtesy of Bridges to Prosperity, is an example of a suspension-type pedestrian bridge they helped construct in Nicaragua. While the RiNo bridge will be shorter and not necessarily the same design as this example, it illustrates the basic bridge type proposed for River North.


The RiNo Pedestrian Bridge will not only help connect the different parts of RiNo to each other, but it also will provide an important bicycle and pedestrian connection for the Globeville neighborhood. Located west of the river and north of the Burlington Northern rail yards, getting from Globeville to River North by bicycle currently isn’t easy, as Washington Street/38th Street are rather automobile-heavy, bike-unfriendly roadways. In the future, bicyclists will be able to head south from Washington Street while still on the west side of the river and cross over using the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge, providing direct access to the new River North Park and the 38th and Blake Station via the proposed 35th Street Woonerf (the topic of our next post in this series!) and the under-construction 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge.

Additionally, the Denver Public Library, a strong advocate for the new RiNo Pedestrian Bridge, is planning to have a special facility in the proposed River North Park, so the new bridge will provide nice access to their new facility for Globeville residents.

The RiNo Pedestrian Bridge will be an important new link in Denver’s expanding infrastructure designed for people, not just cars.

Join the WalkDenver Data Challenge May 31-June 14!

Improving Denver’s pedestrian infrastructure (sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting, etc.) is critical as more and more people rely upon walking as part of their daily routine. Making those pedestrian improvements in an efficient and prioritized way requires data. However, Denver doesn’t collect data on sidewalk conditions because the City doesn’t maintain or repair sidewalks. Denver property owners do. In other words, there is no equitable, citywide, proactive program for sidewalk maintenance and repair in Denver.

Our friends at WalkDenver have been working hard for several years to change that situation.

WalkDenver is launching a two-week-long WALKscope Data Challenge to collect sidewalk and crosswalk condition data across the city from May 31 – June 14. We need your help! You may even win $1,000 for your neighborhood in the process! All of the details are available on the WALKscope Data Challenge web page.


WALKscope is an easy-to-use tool you use on your smartphone to collect and submit sidewalk and crosswalk data. Admit it: you walk around staring at your smartphone anyway, so why not do something helpful for your community while you’re at it?