Breaking Down Mediocre Report Card on Denver's Bid to Lower Traffic Deaths

Photo by Brandon Marshall
The Denver Streets Partnership has issued a report card for 2018 in regard to Vision Zero, an action plan launched by Mayor Michael Hancock that aims to eliminate traffic deaths in the Mile High City by 2030. And while there are some bright spots, the overall mark of "C" is no one's idea of a triumph.

"We'd like to see progress that isn't variable," says Piep van Heuven, who's both co-chair of the partnership and policy director of Bicycle Colorado. "Denver's made very significant progress in a number of areas, but it's important to measure year-to-year to see where we're meeting expectations and where we haven't gotten traction yet."

"We're really pleased Mayor Hancock has committed to Vision Zero," adds Jill Locantore, van Heuven's fellow co-chair at Denver Streets Partnership and executive director of WalkDenver. "But the city needs to do a better job of implementing the plan in a timely manner."

Doing so is very much a life-and-death matter. Last June, Denver was on pace for one of its highest traffic-death totals this century, and that proved to be the case. The 59 people who died in Denver traffic accidents in 2018 was the second-most since 2005, topped during that time only by 61 fatalities in 2016.

The report card looks at eight major Vision Zero components and grades the city's progress toward its goals in four categories for each. The "Actions," "Quality" and "Completion" groupings are self-explanatory, while "Location" refers to where projects were based, with Denver typically downgraded if they were outside what's been designated as the "high-injury network" or a so-called "community of concern." The former consists of what van Heuven calls "the 5 percent of the street network where 50 percent of the fatalities happen." (Major arterials such as Colfax Avenue, Hampden Avenue, Alameda Avenue, Federal Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard are all on the list.) The latter are neighborhoods where a lack of infrastructure makes alternative forms of transportation such as walking or cycling difficult; they include Montbello, Green Valley Ranch, Globeville, Elyria-Swansea and suburban areas in southeast and southwest Denver.

Below, van Heuven and Locantore break down each bracket, explaining what went right and what didn't.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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