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Archive of posts filed under the Public Health category.

Walking in Denver Part 4: How Unsafe Streets Play Out at One Intersection

by Jenny Niemann

This is the fourth in a series of posts that will review the basics of Denver’s pedestrian infrastructure and new developments that may help you get around. In our first, second and third posts on this topic, we reviewed Denver’s sidewalk dilemma, the city’s primary pedestrian advocates, and factors contributing to Denver’s walkability. This week, we review the final element of walking in Denver: safety.

Denver has seen an uptick in pedestrian- and bicyclist-involved collisions in the past year—as of November 4th, 22 people have died on Denver’s streets. That’s about two deaths in the city per month, and we can all probably agree, it is 22 too many.

This fall, WalkDenver’s Policy Committee has been studying Denver’s five most dangerous intersections for pedestrians. At 13th Avenue and Broadway, one of these dangerous intersections, there were nine pedestrian-car collisions between January 2012 and December 2015.

What are we doing about this? Mayor Hancock committed the city to Vision Zero last winter. Vision Zero is an international movement that believes that all traffic deaths are preventable. Started in Sweden, the movement has spread to the US and asks cities to commit to a goal of zero deaths on our streets. A simple way to think about vision zero is: what is the acceptable number of your friends and family that die while traveling? Zero is the answer, so zero should be the goal we set for everyone.

Mayor Hancock’s commitment means the city’s goal is to eliminate all traffic deaths on Denver’s roads. While this effort will involve all modes, pedestrians face greater risks by mile than drivers. Interventions that improve sidewalks and slow down cars will need to be a big part of getting to zero traffic deaths.

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The vision zero coalition was formed  to support the City and County of Denver’s adoption of Vision Zero and the goal of zero traffic fatalities or serious injuries. The coalition’s lobbying recently led to an extra $500,000 in the 2017 budget for Vision Zero efforts to improve intersections outside of the city center. However, gaps remain between the city’s commitment and its budget priorities, as Streetsblog recently explored.

Public Data: As part of Denver’s Vision Zero efforts, it has published a public “crash dashboard” of traffic collisions. You can use this tool to look up how many collisions have happened in the past few years, at any intersection in the city.

Using this dashboard, we looked at 13th Avenue and Broadway. This intersection is a good illustration of why pedestrian environments are more complicated than you’d think, as discussed in our last article. On the surface, this intersection just south of the State Capitol, the Central Library, and downtown seems reasonably safe: wide, well-kept sidewalks allow the many pedestrians around to comfortably walk to many of the nearby destinations. To cross the intersection, pedestrians receive walk signals at every traffic signal cycle, allowing crossing on two sides of the intersection via wide crosswalks that are present at all four crossing areas. There’s a lot to walk to, nearby bus stops, and the wide sidewalks keep pedestrians reasonably well-separated from cars. It passes many of our walkability criteria.

Is this intersection truly dangerous? Yes, as evidenced by the high number of crashes. But this intersection is busy: many people are walking to the nearby Denver Art Museum, the Library, and to the bus stops on Broadway, which serve multiple frequent bus lines. There’s certainly a lot of car traffic on both 13th Avenue and Broadway. More pedestrian and car traffic at an intersection means that more collisions are likely: the more we drive, the more collisions (and deaths) there are. Yet this isn’t in the top-five busiest intersections in Denver, and it has far fewer car collisions than nearby intersections. What makes this intersection so unsafe for people who are walking?

Despite the wide sidewalks, this area is still dominated by cars. Broadway is five lanes wide where it hits 13th Avenue—not counting two parking lanes that make the road seem even wider, just north of the intersection. 13th Avenue has four lanes of traffic when it hits Broadway. That’s simply a huge area dedicated for automobiles.

Many pedestrian-car collisions happen when cars are making turns at intersections. At this intersection, pedestrians receive a walk signal when the light for parallel car traffic is green. This means that pedestrians are crossing the street while cars also have a green light to turn. The dashboard data tells us that six of nine of these pedestrian-car collisions occurred when the car was making a left turn, that is, turning from westbound 13th Avenue onto southbound Broadway.

On October 30th, Karina Pulec, a 28-year-old lawyer, was struck and killed at 13th and Broadway. The driver fled the scene, but turned himself in four days later. Pulec was crossing 13th Avenue when she was hit by the driver, who was turning left from 13th onto Broadway. We don’t yet know why Karina Pulec was killed, but as a Vision Zero city, we need to start highlighting each and every single death. Yes, drunk drivers, distracted drivers, and negligent drivers contribute to thousands of deaths each year. But the design of our streets also plays a part in protecting pedestrians from errant drivers and giving them a safer place to walk.


Walking in Denver Part 3: Beyond the Sidewalk

by Jenny Niemann

This is the third in a series of posts that will review the basics of Denver’s pedestrian infrastructure and new developments that may help you get around. In our first and second posts on this topic, we reviewed Denver’s sidewalk dilemma, the city’s primary pedestrian advocates, recent policy developments and how you can get involved. This week, we review what else affects how Denverites get around on foot.

This series began with sidewalks, the building blocks of the pedestrian environment. Yet your walking experience is made up of much more than the simple surface that your feet (or stroller, or wheelchair) use to walk down the block. There are a number of other forces at work in Denver that affect your walk to the park, and how often we all choose to walk instead of drive.

Jeff Speck, a national walkability expert, outlines “10 Steps of Walkability” including street trees, friendly and unique building faces, mixed uses, balanced parking, frequent transit, pedestrian protection through slower speeds and curbside parking, streets designed for bikes, and pedestrian spaces that are comfortably enclosed by good design and interesting buildings.

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You know good walkability when you see it. Walking down South Pearl Street, you’ll find a plethora of small shops and restaurants that make the walk interesting, outdoor seating gives life to the street, trees provide shade, and parallel parking separates traffic and the sidewalk. On the other hand, it’s easy to identify poor walkability when you see it, too: walking along Denver’s arterial streets like Alameda, Federal, or Colorado Boulevard, you’ll notice that nothing separates the sidewalk from high-speed traffic, few trees provide shade, and most often what borders the sidewalk is a parking lot. There’s little to attract—or distract—someone walking down the street, which is why so few people do.

Our everyday decisions about how to move around the city are affected by all of this: whether or not you walk or drive to the nearest corner store likely depends on how interesting, comfortable, and safe that walk is. So what is Denver doing to get walkability right, beyond the sidewalk? From the Community Planning and Development Department’s work on neighborhood plans and citizen groups lobbying for crosswalks, there are a lot of things going on.

Denveright: The City of Denver is currently working on a Denver Moves: Pedestrian & Trails plan as part of the Denveright planning process. The Pedestrians and Trails plan will establish community priorities that can help guide funding for sidewalks to the most important areas first—such as near transit or schools. The city’s first transit plan, Denver Moves: Transit, may also help improve walking to transit stops. See DenverUrbanism’s past coverage of the Denveright process here.

Changes on Colfax: Colfax Avenue is wicked, quirky, and full of attractions you might like to walk to. The problem is that it’s pretty car-dominated and hard to get across, unless you happen to be crossing at an intersection with a traffic light. Fortunately, the Mayor’s recent budget proposal, after strong advocacy by the Denver Vision Zero Coalition and the Colfax Collaborative, now includes $500,000 for design work on four enhanced pedestrian crossings on Colfax. This came after more than 1,800 people signed a petition for this funding. This will make it easier—and safer—for people to cross the street and make Colfax less of a barrier splitting up the many great neighborhoods along it.

Development bring redevelopment: As covered by DenverUrbanism last month, the Brighton Boulevard Corridor Redevelopment project includes new protected pedestrian crossings, landscaping, benches, and pedestrian-scale lighting, in addition to badly needed sidewalks along the corridor. All the development on the corridor will give you plenty of interesting places to walk to. The city’s project will make walking possible and safe.

Neighborhood plans: While less shiny than Brighton Boulevard, the City continues to prioritize pedestrian infrastructure in many of its recent neighborhood plans: Westwood’s new Neighborhood Plan recommends improvements to the pedestrian environment; the I-25 and Broadway Station Area Plan calls for the creation of shared streets, multi-modal bridges and pedestrian amenity zones. Many other neighborhood and station area plans prioritize pedestrian mobility within neighborhoods and improving pedestrian connections to transit.

Crossing guidelines: In the spring of 2016, Denver released new crossing guidelines: these standards dictate what treatments (crosswalks, pedestrian islands, curb extensions, etc.) should go in at the many places where pedestrians cross streets without the benefit of a traffic light or stop sign. Check out this document so you know what to expect for places where you might want to see a crosswalk.

Bonds: Finally, The City of  Denver will seek taxpayer approval for a 2017 general obligation (GO) bond to fund capital asset and infrastructure needs. What will get funded through this bond will be determined after a public process. The bond may present an opportunity to allocate further funding for sidewalks, but it is not a long-term funding source that would ensure sidewalks are properly maintained over the long term. Streetsblog Denver breaks down what we know here. Head to the upcoming community meetings to have a say in funding priorities.

Citizen and Business Groups: The West Colfax corridor has gotten public art, painted intersections, and wayfinding, due to the work of citizen volunteers and the West Colfax Business improvement District. The Drive Chill Park Hill campaign asks drivers to pledge to be compliant, cell-free, cautious, considerate, conscientious, and chill. Both of these groups, among many others, are working for neighborhoods that slow car traffic and are better—and safer—places to walk around.

Denver, its residents, and developers can make our city a better place to walk in every day, from new storefronts to snow-shoveling to slowing down traffic. Let us know in the comments what affects your walk. In my next post, we’ll talk about pedestrian safety.

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Jenny Niemann is a graduate student in the University of Colorado Denver’s dual-degree in urban planning and public health. Her graduate work involves alternative transportation and healthy food systems and how the benefits of these sustainable city services can be accessed by households of all incomes. A native of the suburbs of Washington, DC, Jenny enjoys exploring Colorado’s growing cities and mountains by bicycle.


Walking in Denver Part 2: Sidewalk Movers and Shakers

by Jenny Niemann

This is the second in a series of posts that will review the basics of Denver’s pedestrian infrastructure and new developments that may help you get around.

In our first post on this topic, we reviewed Denver’s sidewalk dilemma and how it affects Denver’s health and prosperity. Now let’s take a look at Denver’s primary pedestrian advocates.

Who is involved?
Denver has been discussing sidewalks with increasing frequency over the past year. There have been a number of policy developments that could have a big impact on Denver’s sidewalks. Here are some of the groups involved:

  • WalkDenver is Denver’s dedicated pedestrian advocacy organization, working to make Denver the most walkable city in the country through advocacy, data collection, community programs and tactical urbanism.
  • The Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee is a group appointed by the mayor to advise on pedestrian issues and upcoming plans.
  • The Denver Moves: Pedestrians and Trails task force will be a key voice in the Denveright planning process going forward.
  • The Denver City Council created a Sidewalk Working Group, chaired by Councilman Paul Kashman, last spring. They are looking to find a policy solution to Denver’s sidewalk problem, and started with this white paper.
  • Denver Public Works is the department ultimately responsible for transportation in Denver, including pedestrian mobility.
  • Streetsblog Denver is the Mile High City’s outspoken online voice for spotlighting the deficiencies in Denver’s pedestrian environment and promoting initiatives such as Vision Zero.

What’s happening now?
At the end of 2015, WalkDenver launched the Denver Deserves Sidewalks campaign, calling upon the City to assume responsibility for building and repairing sidewalks, and establish a dedicated funding source for this purpose. Nearly 3,000 people signed the Denver Deserves Sidewalks petition, and 34 organizations provided letters of support.

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This got the conversation started and led to the creation of the City Council’s Sidewalk Working Group. That group held meetings over the summer, and now is considering various policy options to find a solution to this problem. Potential solutions all start with active assessment of the sidewalk network, but private property owners retain legal responsibility for construction of sidewalks. The policies vary in the way they help property owners pay for sidewalk improvements.

There’s been some limited progress in the City’s budget: The Mayor’s 2017 budget includes $2.5 million for sidewalks adjacent to City-owned property. However, this doesn’t help out private property owners. Councilman Kashmann and the Mayor’s office are currently discussing a plan to help low-income homeowners pay for sidewalk repairs.

And incremental improvements are ongoing: The Department of Public Works is making progress on streets around Denver, like the new sidewalks that will be constructed along Hampden and Havana streets. See a list of upcoming pedestrian projects here.

There’s been good progress over the past year, and advocates like WalkDenver are hopeful that the City Council will find a solution soon. But for now, we’re stuck with the status quo: private property owners are still responsible for the sidewalks along their property. The City Council’s proposed policy solutions would help the city share in some of the cost of sidewalk repairs, but property owners would remain responsible even though sidewalks are part of the public right-of-way.

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The City is admittedly in a tough position: few have the appetite for new government spending, so it may seem easiest to let the responsibility remain with property owners. But the health and safety of Denver’s residents make it imperative we find a way to overcome this challenge. Denver’s residents pay taxes so that we can provide public goods like safe roads and bike lanes for all residents. Sidewalks should be no different.

Want to get involved?
Great! To learn more, you can use WalkDenver’s WALKScope tool to check out the conditions of sidewalks in your neighborhood, and add data yourself on any sidewalk in the city. This tool was created by WalkDenver and PlaceMatters to allow crowd-souring of pedestrian infrastructure data—allowing anyone to report information on the quality of Denver’s sidewalks, providing valuable information to both advocates and the City government, which does not keep such detailed records of sidewalk conditions.

You can also report poor sidewalk conditions to the City—once a year, one report per person. So pick the worst sidewalk infrastructure in your neighborhood and send in a report before the year is over. See Public Work’s guidelines for complaints here.

You can head to the Denveright site for more information and to give feedback on your vision for Denver’s pedestrian network; you can also provide input on the transit plan, too.

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To help the movement keep pushing forward, you could also become a WalkDenver supporter and make a contribution to support their ongoing Denver Deserves Sidewalks campaign.

And lastly: winter is coming. We’ve got to make sure the sidewalks we have are passable for people who choose—or must—get around on them. A friendly reminder to do your part and clear your sidewalk, and maybe your neighbor’s, too. Check out the city’s sidewalk shoveling requirements (and other resources) here.

There’s a lot more to walking than sidewalks. Next time, we’ll explore other components of Denver’s pedestrian infrastructure, and the many planning efforts that affect walkability. Stay tuned!

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Jenny Niemann is a graduate student in the University of Colorado Denver’s dual-degree in urban planning and public health. Her graduate work involves alternative transportation and healthy food systems and how the benefits of these sustainable city services can be accessed by households of all incomes. A native of the suburbs of Washington, DC, Jenny enjoys exploring Colorado’s growing cities and mountains by bicycle.


Walking in Denver Part 1: Whose Sidewalk Is It Anyway?

by Jenny Niemann

This is the first in a series of posts that will review the basics of Denver’s pedestrian infrastructure and new developments that may help you get around.

Denver has got some great places to walk to, from the Zoo to your neighborhood park; every neighborhood has somewhere to go by foot. Yet what makes a walk around the block possible? There’s a lot that goes into pedestrian infrastructure, and a lot of talk about sidewalks lately. This first part will look at the most basic building block of the pedestrian experience: sidewalks. Denver has some challenges with its pedestrian infrastructure, as DenverUrbanism wrote earlier this year.

What’s the big deal?
Around 250 miles of Denver’s streets do not have sidewalks. In addition, crowdsourced-mapping through WalkDenver’s WALKScope shows that 35% of mapped sidewalks in Denver are in poor or very poor condition. This problem isn’t unique to Denver either: Colorado cities are missing an estimated total of 6,000 miles of sidewalks while 8,600 miles of sidewalks need to be repaired. Statewide, we’ll need an estimated $134 million every year for the next 25 years to fill this sidewalk gap, according to a study released this summer by CoPIRG and SWEEP.

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In Denver, problems stem from the fact that the city places responsibility for sidewalk construction and maintenance on adjacent private property owners. But requiring private property owners to pay for a public good hasn’t led to a great sidewalk network, because not all property owners know (or care) about this requirement and many may not have the disposable income to take care of it. The problem gets worse because the City of Denver does not commonly enforce sidewalk conditions and, as a result, many streets don’t have sidewalks or the sidewalks haven’t been repaired for decades.

Don’t think Denver sidewalks are that bad? Well, it often depends on where you live. According to WalkDenver, “low-income neighborhoods are the least likely to have sidewalks, accessible pedestrian ramps” and other pedestrian amenities. These neighborhoods also have walkers, and bear double the pedestrian fatality rates of wealthier communities. Simply put: residents in low-income neighborhoods, who rely on sidewalks the most, have the worst sidewalk conditions and face the greatest risk.

Why do sidewalks matter?
Safety: An incomplete sidewalk network has a number of dangerous effects. A lack of sidewalks can force pedestrians into the street or to make unsafe crossings, leading to collisions and sometimes pedestrian deaths. People who use wheelchairs, or have other mobility limitations, cannot traverse heavily damaged sidewalks. At a city council meeting last year, some of Denver’s wheelchair users told of being shut-into their homes, unable to participate in society, due to poor infrastructure.

Health: The most deadly impact of poor sidewalks may be a more slow-acting threat: a lack of good sidewalks can serve as a barrier to physical activity. According to the CDC, 57% of Denver metro adults are overweight or obese and 16% report getting no physical activity in the past month. Obesity and overweight status has negative effects on overall health, in addition to massive costs for all of us. Medical expenditures attributable to obesity exceed $1.6 billion annually—in Colorado alone.

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Happiness: On the brighter side, a recent Gallup-Healthways report found that cities that promote active living have happy and healthier residents overall. Denver’s well-being score ranked 13th among major U.S. metros. Sidewalks and safe places for people to walk (or run, or push a stroller) are a fundamental piece of the active living puzzle, opening up doors to walking as transportation, walking to transit, walking for exercise, and walking with friends.

Business: Sidewalks are good for business, too. Places with good walkability can command higher office and retail rents and can generate 80% higher retail sales, compared to places with fair walkability, according to the Brookings Institute.

Transit: Sidewalks are closely related to the success of our transit system. Mile High Connects, in a study on First and Last Mile Connections to transit, found that sidewalks were the most important piece of infrastructure connecting people to transit. The consistent underfunding and inadequacy of first and last mile connections has implications across Denver, such as reducing the use of our transit system and disadvantaging low-income and minority communities.

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Lastly: a lot of our population doesn’t drive, despite what traffic on I-25 might tell you. Some seniors don’t drive, along with all children under 16, some people with disabilities, recent immigrants, and people who cannot afford car ownership or shared vehicles. Many other people simply choose not to drive, and walk, bike, or take transit instead. When you’re not driving, you’re relying on sidewalks and other public infrastructure more.

Sidewalks matter for every resident in Denver. Those in wheelchairs or those without cars may rely on them everyday. But sidewalks benefit those who drive too, since a walkable environment supports other investments and public goods like local businesses, transit, and community health. Often, they’re so integral to Denver’s great places that you don’t notice them till they’re not there.

Our next article will look at new developments in sidewalk policy and the key players involved.

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Jenny Niemann is a graduate student in the University of Colorado Denver’s dual-degree in urban planning and public health. Her graduate work involves alternative transportation and healthy food systems and how the benefits of these sustainable city services can be accessed by households of all incomes. A native of the suburbs of Washington, DC, Jenny enjoys exploring Colorado’s growing cities and mountains by bicycle.


The Healthy Side of Denver’s Affordable Housing Progress

by Jenny Niemann

Denver will soon have its first-ever dedicated affordable housing fund. On September 19th, the Denver City Council authorized the Denver Fund for Affordable Housing, which will support the construction or preservation of around 6,000 affordable housing units, as well as emergency financial assistance to help families stay in their homes. Through a property taxes and developer fees, this fund will provide an estimated $150 million over 10 years and will add to Denver’s existing efforts to address Denver’s growing affordability challenges: home prices in Denver have increased over 50% in the past six years.

While 6,000 units makes a small dent in this problem, it is a significant step towards ensuring Denver remains a livable place for families of all ranges of incomes. A second initiative also just passed the City Council, allowing for density bonuses around the 38th and Blake rail station (in the form of taller buildings) if the development includes affordable housing. While many details still need to be finalized, this could prove an effective way to get many more affordable units constructed, as it has in many other cities.

This is an exciting move for our growing city, not only because this will help some of the estimated 87,000 families in Denver who are cost-burdened by housing. Affordable housing also provides dividends for the entire city over the long term by improving the health of its residents. People who are not cost-burdened by housing spend more on both nutritious food and essential health care services. Families who are in affordable housing also have lower stress levels, which helps them to avoid a number of negative health impacts including high blood pressure. On the other hand, housing stress has been associated with poor mental health, negative health behaviors like smoking, and poor overall health. Oakland found that their affordable housing crisis was leading to a public health crisis of its own, leading in increases in hypertension, asthma, depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

On a larger scale, it also means that families of all incomes can have access to some of Denver’s best neighborhoods, which promotes health through their walkable and accessible nature. The River North and Cole neighborhoods around the 38th and Blake station, where the density bonus will take effect, provide a wide variety of  transportation options including rail transit, are bikeable to downtown, and are walkable to services like the Eastside Family Health Center. A city that provides affordable options in its transit-oriented neighborhoods is ensuring that the many benefits of walkable, transportation-rich neighborhoods accrue to residents from many incomes.

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Affordable housing’s benefits go far beyond the borders of its walls: cities who support housing are more regionally competitive and its businesses have greater employee retention. They also save money, too: a recent study of California’s affordable housing found that providing housing for homeless individuals saves general funds—taxpayer dollars!—as demand falls for other social services. Affordable housing can also lead to lower health care expenditures by Medicaid recipients. Children that move to affordable housing in low-poverty neighborhoods even have higher incomes as adults.

The Denver Housing Authority (DHA) recognizes these benefits: it integrated health into its plans for the award-winning Mariposa District housing development, a mixed-income community with a walkable transit-oriented design, a community garden, community health classes, a healthy food care and public art. Other DHA properties help seniors and disabled residents connect to health care. A new DHA program will focus on residents who are frequent users of Medicaid services, in an effort to reduce the use of health care while providing improved quality of care. This program could result in significant cost savings for the health care system.

Affordable housing is an important piece of the puzzle that will help Denver remain an inclusive city as it grows. Denver’s new affordable housing fund will help house more people. But it’s worth remembering that these 6,000 units will improve health and create benefits far beyond cost savings for low-income households. Denver has the potential to become a stronger city overall when it makes affording housing a bit easier for its residents to obtain.

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Jenny Niemann is a graduate student in the University of Colorado Denver’s dual-degree in urban planning and public health. Her graduate work involves alternative transportation and healthy food systems and how the benefits of these sustainable city services can be accessed by households of all incomes. A native of the suburbs of Washington, DC, Jenny enjoys exploring Colorado’s growing cities and mountains by bicycle.


City Loop, Take II

After much public debate, an energetic group of local citizens recently came together to put the kibosh on a proposed park redevelopment in City Park called “City Loop.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the project, it was (in the words of Denver Park’s and Recreation staff) “intended to be a new, multi-generational activity and play area that would replace the existing Dustin Redd playground, which is in need of significant repair or replacement after nearly 20 years of use. The goal behind the current City Loop concept is to create a new area that gives everyone using the park—from small children to older adults—an opportunity to remain active and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.” For more info on the project, you can follow this link to the city’s web page on City Loop.

For the purposes of this blog post, I don’t want to get into the controversy behind the City Loop proposal at City Park but, rather, to urge the city to give this concept another try in an area of the city where it’s wanted and desperately needed. In the wake of the demise of the initial proposal, Councilwoman Susan Shepherd and Councilman Paul Lopez have been working with local neighborhood groups to ask the Parks department to reinvent the concept in Paco Sanchez Park. Never heard of Paco Sanchez Park? That’s precisely one of the reasons for this proposal. Unlike City Park, this park is relatively unknown and underutilized. It is also situated in a neighborhood where there are a great deal of low-income families with children who could easily access the park by foot, by bike and by rail. The following is a Google Earth aerial photo of Paco Sanchez Park.

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Paco Sanchez Park, named for a local Hispanic activist and radio broadcaster, is located in Lakewood Gulch between Federal Boulevard and Knox Court on Denver’s west side. The brand new West Line cuts right through the middle of the park; in fact, it would completely sever the park in two if not for a new pedestrian bridge that was built as part of the light rail construction. The park is part of an extensive bicycle corridor that connects west-side residents to the Platte River and is book-ended by two light rail stations. Bus lines run down Federal and Knox Court making this park accessible to virtually every mode of transportation this city has to offer (except B-Cycle, but that could come later).

With the exception of the light rail bridge, some bike path and storm drainage upgrades needed for the light rail project, and a highly successful Frisbee golf course, the park has not seen substantial investment in decades and could seriously use an update. The park is utilized, but not to the extent that it could be, because there is not much in the way of programming and because some of the facilities that do exist are deteriorating. While there hasn’t been much investment in the park in recent history, there is beginning to be a great deal of reinvestment in the neighborhoods surrounding the park; plans are in the works to revitalize the Sun Valley neighborhood and its DHA housing project to the east, and a new mixed-use development with a new public library is being built a block to the north (link). While City Park could certainly use additional maintenance and investment, I personally think bringing the City Loop concept to a less beloved park, which is in greater need of investment and activation and is in a neighborhood that is transitioning into a denser transit-oriented neighborhood, makes a great deal of sense. Let’s see what this might look like.

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The photo on the left is the proposed City Loop concept for City Park taken from the city’s website. In the image on the right, I’ve taken this concept, overlaid it (relatively to scale) on top of Paco Sanchez Park and made some slight modifications to make it work in this park (I’ve also taken the liberty of giving it a bit of a filter, so it looks more conceptual). While there would need to be significant modification to the plans due to topography (it is in a gulch after all), the concept of a looping trail with multiple interactive playground nodes could work very well here. The concept would greatly help to tie the two halves of the park together allowing for more interaction from one side of the gulch to the other, and since the “loop” is centered on the light-rail line (crossing over it twice), the park could really celebrate transit as part of the experience.

There are a few other reasons I think this is a great idea and should be implemented (and I do hope Lauri Dannemiller of Denver Parks and Recreation is reading this). First, there are a very large number of ethnically and racially diverse, low-income families with children in the Sun Valley, West Colfax, Villa Park and Barnum neighborhoods who would have direct access to this park via, foot, bike, bus and train. These kids can’t necessarily afford to go to Elitch’s and don’t have the luxury of being driven to nicer suburban parks with new modern playgrounds, spray pads and the like. This could be a great place for them to be kids, to explore and be active. It could be their amusement park. What’s more, many of these kids are at risk for obesity, and the health risks associated with it. This new concept with a walking loop and multiple play areas would help keep these kids more active and healthy (and it could help their parents too).

Second, I think the park could become a real jewel in what is already a nice green necklace of parks that cuts through the west side of Denver. Finally, there has been much concern among long-time locals about the strain that new development around Sloans Lake Park may put on that park. I firmly believe that creating another destination park within the general vicinity would ease some of the pressure off that already well-used and beloved park. I do hope that the city parks department shares the opinions of Councilwoman Shepherd and Councilman Lopez and seriously considers this proposal. I think it could really be a win-win for the neighborhoods surrounding Paco Sanchez Park and for the City of Denver as a whole.


Colorado Bike to Work Day 2013!

A reminder to everyone that Bike to Work Day is tomorrow Wednesday June 26th! In fact this whole week, the fourth week of June every year, is Colorado Bike Month!

Be sure to register for the event so you can find group rides, breakfast and event stations, win prizes and to get involved in a great day for Colorado. Registering also helps organizers accurately determine how many commuters are participating, how many cars where removed from Wednesday’s commute and which routes and areas have the most bicycle commuter potential; all of which is vital for continuing this event and improving our state’s two wheel infrastructure. As of Tuesday morning almost 20,000 cyclist-commuters have already registered!

For help finding your bicycling route, and event stations, check out Bike to Work Day’s route finder or use Google Maps improved transit/cycling/pedestrian direction function. If you have a longer or shorter commute working transit or walking into the trip is also accepted.

Ready to go? Let us know your favorite part of your bike commute or which breakfast station or group ride you are looking forward to? What would make your commute more bike friendly?


Community Coordinating District and Eddie Maestas Park

By Jorgen Jensen

The Community Coordinating District (CCD No.1) is a unique metropolitan district (metro district) established to facilitate public improvement and development initiatives throughout the Denver metro area. They’ve recently engaged “virtual town hall” technology through Mind Mixer and are making a push through the attached Mini-Contest to raise awareness of their own website.

CCD No.1 was created to address a familiar hurdle in community development projects. The challenge, as with most collaborative efforts, is aligning multiple stakeholders to work together toward a common goal. This requires a clear and actionable strategy, the right funding resources, and positive action from everyone involved

With many of these issues especially prevalent in Northeast Downtown neighborhoods, CCD No. 1 was established with cooperation from Councilwoman Judy Montero, the Ballpark Neighborhood Association, and Urban Market Partners to help with placemaking efforts and other goals of the Northeast Downtown Neighborhoods – specifically in and around the Triangle Parks area. We’ve all seen the Triangle Parks along Broadway near shelters at Lawrence and know there’s work to be done.

  

It’s important to highlight that this metro or “Special District” is the first of its kind in that it has no Service Area Plan Boundaries. In fact, the District has no geographical boundaries and provides an “Opt-in” structure so that other groups or community development efforts can someday use this as a vehicle to more efficiently partner with their respective City.

For their pilot project, CCD No. 1 has chosen Eddie Maestas Park at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street, across from the Denver Rescue Mission. The conversation has since expanded and is now addressing issues and opportunities at Sonny Lawson Park and along the entire 24th Street corridor. It’s clear that the issues surrounding the Triangle Parks are just as much about the social infrastructure as they are the physical design or infrastructure. Further, what happens at Eddie Maestas affects Curtis Park and Sonny Lawson Park, so a more global, holistic approach to the programming of the neighborhood wide public realm is needed.

You can learn more about CCD No. 1 by visiting their website or find them on Facebook.

This coming Monday (21st) at 5:30PM, CCD No. 1 will be hosting its Monthly Public Work Session Meeting at Redline at 24th and Arapahoe.  This meeting is especially important because ALL temporary design plans for Triangle Parks will be presented. The goal is to collect all public and stakeholder feedback and select a concept to advance. The CCD No. 1 Creative Working Group meets every Monday at 10AM at 450 E. 17th Ave #400. This group exists to focus on the temporary and long term vision surrounding Eddie Maestas. The Long Term Vision Group meets every Monday at 11AM at Redline. This group focuses on the entire Northeast Downtown neighborhood area and the many possibilities for revitalization. Any and all are welcome and encouraged to attend both the monthly work session next Monday and the Creative Working Group meetings!


People Are Pedestrians By Design

By Gosia Kung

There is something absolutely amazing that happens when a child takes her first steps. As she starts exploring the world in the vertical position her perception changes. And this new spatial awareness transforms her from an infant into a person. It’s almost as the ability to walk defines a child as a human being.

Through evolution humans became pedestrians. The scientists study the connection between “feet and head” and how the development of people as walkers and runners effected the development of our brains. We all know this feeling, when we pace around the room in search for a solution to a problem or go for a walk to ‘clear our head’. The connection between the brain and the feet is clear.

For thousands of years of evolution walking was the only form of transportation available to most. Our brains are “hard wired” to the experience of walking as our eyes are conditioned to register the objects at 3 miles/ hour. At this speed human brain is able to acknowledge a face of the passerby, a flower, a bird or a sign in a storefront.

Walking is also an integral part of our social life. People like to be surrounded by other human beings and walking allows for opportunity to “bump into” an old friend, a conversation, an observation, and a participation in activity.

People’s bodies and minds are designed to participate in a pedestrian lifestyle. As technological advancements allowed us to “engineer walking out of our lifestyle” we are faced with multitude of problems from depression to diabetes and from anxiety to cardiovascular disease.

While entire health industry is alarmed by increasing rates of obesity and every day we hear recommendations for adding physical activity to our lifestyle it is important to note that simple walking twice a day for 15 minutes at a time is often enough to maintain a healthy weight. But most urban and suburban areas developed in last 50-60 years are not designed for pedestrians. Intense traffic, lack of sidewalks and ped infrastructure make it unsafe to walk.

In order to allow people to be pedestrians again we need to design streets and public spaces to the “human scale”. Creating places that are safe and fun to walk will soon result with people incorporating walking into their daily routine. Walking to school, running errands on foot and using transit for longer trips will become a part of healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

Because “people are pedestrians by design”.

For more information please visit WalkDenver at www.walkdenver.org

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Gosia Kung, Architect, LEED AP BD+C – was born in Krakow, Poland where has received a degree in Architecture and Urban Design from University of Technology in 1996. Her passion for urban design and sustainable city planning is well grounded in historic context of European towns and enriched with her experience as a practicing architect in the US in last 15 years. As a principal/owner of KUNG architecture her mission is to promote ‘sustainable solutions for the urban lifestyle’. Her focus is on design, education, and consulting in areas of mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods supported by public transit. Gosia is the founder of WalkDenver. She can be reached by email at: gkung *at* kungarch *dot* com.