Research tells us vehicle speed plays a critical role in the severity of crashes. Drivers traveling at higher speeds are less likely to see someone walking or biking, are less likely to yield, have less time to stop, and if a crash occurs, it is much more likely to be fatal. The Denver Police don’t know exactly how fast the driver who hit Christian was going, but the evidence suggests it was much faster than the posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour. If the driver had been going slower, perhaps he or she would have been able to avoid hitting Christian, or perhaps the crash might have injured Christian, but not killed him.
Research also tells us the biggest determinant of traffic speed is the design of the roadway. While the speed limit on Blake Street is 25 miles per hour, it’s a wide road with three lanes of one-way traffic, designed to speed cars out of downtown as quickly as possible. Even during rush hour, traffic often hurtles down the street well above the speed limit. This design is dangerously inconsistent with the setting in the heart of downtown Denver, mere blocks away from the biggest transit hub in the entire state of Colorado, and intersecting the 16th Street Mall where an average of 21,000 pedestrians walk every day.
Fortunately, we know how to design streets to support slower speeds. For one thing, narrower, two-way streets encourage slower traffic. Compare Blake to Wazee, just one street over. Instead of three one-way lanes, Wazee has just two lanes, going in opposite directions, and as a result traffic is much calmer. Vertical speed control elements—such as raised crosswalks—are even more effective at enforcing safe speeds. In very pedestrian-oriented areas, such as where Blake crosses the 16th Street Mall, the entire intersection could be raised. See the example from Florida pictured below.