We’ve got to talk about walking in Denver. It’s dangerous, it’s oppressive, and it’s treated as an afterthought. You’ll laugh at my next words: “So I just came back from a two week vacation in Europe….” That’s how these things always start, right? Your friend tours some European capitals and now wants to upend the American way of life. I spent several days each in London, Paris, and Vienna. After coming back and seeing how incredibly easy it was to get around without a car in three different, bustling, global, modern cities I wasn’t surprised to be disappointed by my return to the kingdom of motordom.
The day after I returned home, I was almost flattened by someone exiting an alley at speed while I was walking to the grocery store and was blocked by a car taking up the whole crosswalk at an intersection, both within blocks of my home. This never happened in London, despite it being more crowded. It never happened in Paris, despite it being more chaotic. And it never happened in Vienna, despite its larger streets and the full size cars on display. Denver has talked about changing this paradigm but our actions have so far been timid and wanting.
Yesterday I got a haircut. My barber is down in the tech center while I work up in downtown but the trip is easy enough, a straight shot on the F Line down to Orchard Station. The first thing I noticed was that my train had been transformed into a billboard, a multi-billion dollar advertising platform, with obscured windows. It did not make me feel proud of our enormous investment in transit, and the ride was not improved by the blocked windows. On every train, bus, and even subway in Europe, the windows were never covered. Riders weren’t expected to put up with being enclosed in a darkened advertising platform, as if to say, “If you want dignity, get a car.”