The Most Dangerous Street to Walk Across in Denver

A stretch of Federal Boulevard.
A stretch of Federal Boulevard.
Despite energetic efforts by the City of Denver, cyclists, pedestrians and even a scooter rider continue to die on our streets, and new statistics testify to the scope of the problem.

According to fresh data released by Vision Zero, a project whose ambitious goal is to eliminate traffic fatalities in the Mile High City by 2030, there have been 367 deaths on or near Denver roadways during a little over six and a half years, including 76 people killed while on foot.

Moreover, more than 21 percent of the latter casualties took place along a single Denver corridor: Federal Boulevard.

These numbers were culled from the new Vision Zero Dashboard, which pulls information from Denver's Open Data Catalog each weekday. The digits include graphics tied to a searchable map, and while the capabilities of these tools are currently limited (only one route name can be entered at a time, making it difficult to pull up numerical streets or avenues), they allow the best way to date to measure the dangers on our roadways.

The reports that form the foundation of the dashboard begin at the dawn of 2013, and the following figures run through August 14.

Occupants of passenger cars or vans make up the largest portion — ninety — of the 367 overall traffic casualties in Denver during this period. But pedestrians and motorcyclists are close behind, at 76 and 65, respectively. In addition, nineteen of those who died were in SUVs and 22 rode bicycles, including three that were motorized.

As for serious injuries, those associated with passenger cars or vans, which are carefully engineered to increase survivability in case of a crash, dwarf the others: 1,259 as compared to 495 for motorcycles, 451 for SUVs, 379 for pedestrians, 231 for bicycles and 24 for motorized bicycles.

Federal Boulevard, for its part, was among the first areas targeted by Vision Zero, which launched a major reconstruction effort there last summer — and the data makes it clear why.

Here's the list of people killed or seriously injured in traffic accidents on Federal by year:

2013 — 49
2014 — 75
2015 — 49
2016 — 54
2017 — 49
2018 — 35
2019 — 17

Drivers or passengers of cars or vans dominate Federal's serious injuries, echoing Denver as a whole: 92 since 2013. That's much more than motorcycles (39), pedestrians (38), SUVs (16), bicycles (14) and motorized bicycles (2).

But when it comes to fatalities, pedestrians on Federal — the main route to Mile High Stadium — are at infinitely greater risk. Sixteen people have been killed on the boulevard during fewer than seven years, dwarfing casualties in SUVs (4), passenger cars or vans (2) and motorcycles (1).

Contrast the Federal pedestrian toll to those for several other major Denver corridors in the same time frame. Colfax Avenue is known as the longest main street in America, but its five pedestrian deaths since 2013 is less than a third as high as Federal's count. There were also five pedestrian deaths on Alameda Avenue, six on Colorado Boulevard and just one on Sheridan Boulevard.

Starting in July 2018, as part of an effort to make Federal safer for pedestrians, Denver Public Works tinkered with the length of traffic signals in order to give walkers a head start and longer crossing times; built new concrete pavement, curbs and gutters; designated three continuous northbound travel lanes and a raised, landscaped median between West Seventh Avenue and West Holden Place to improve mobility and safety; installed new sidewalks to enhance access to light-rail stations and bus stops; upgraded the traffic signals at West Eighth and West Tenth Avenues; and added a number of colored crosswalks intended to make it easier for drivers to see if someone is walking in front of them.

That's a lot of enhancements. And yet a man was struck and killed near the intersection of West 14th Avenue and Federal on May 28 — an incident that did nothing to undermine the boulevard's still-deadly reputation.