Activism

The Five Best and Five Worst Places to Walk in Denver

Jonathon Stalls in City Park, his favorite place in town.
Jonathon Stalls in City Park, his favorite place in town. Art Heffron
Jonathon Stalls, the man behind the popular Pedestrian Dignity TikTok account, self-identifies as a "walking artist." He walks...a lot...and can create quite a picture of what it's like to live in this city without a car, as a true pedestrian. So we asked him to share five of his favorite spots, as well as some that need improvement.

The good:

Stalls prefaces his list of five positive places to walk by pointing out that they generally "lack centering pedestrian mobility [at the] level they could or should." Nice as they are, all of these areas could benefit from improved infrastructure, accessibility, dignified public restrooms, and public seating and shade, according to Stalls.

Union Station's outdoor plaza
Stalls loves this spacious area with trees, shade and places to play and rest. The plaza is "generally accessible," he notes, and easily reachable by bike, but also has limited car mobility in front.

City Park
Denver's most popular park also happens to be Stalls's "absolute favorite place" in Denver. There's plenty of room for everyone and all sorts of activities, with shady sections for simply relaxing. Add in the City Park Jazz series and the vibrancy of surrounding communities, and you have a winning combination, says Stalls, who has hosted thousands of walks in City Park over the years.

Lakewood Gulch parks/greenways
This waterway, which juts out from the South Platte River through west Denver, has a lovely trail alongside it all the way to Lakewood. "I am really grateful for this path and how it practically connects to mixed housing, the west rail line, Paco Sánchez Park, the Platte River Trail and more," Stalls says.

Welton Street and Historic Five Points
Stalls cares deeply about racial justice and equity, so it's no surprise that he loves walking in Denver's historic Black neighborhood. He cites jazz, Juneteenth, art, community organizing and local businesses as some of his favorite aspects of Five Points. There are also plenty of food options, he notes, as well as good light-rail access.

South Broadway between Mississippi and Yale avenues
Stalls loves some routes not for their natural settings or interesting history, but because of what they represent. The section of South Broadway that runs from Mississippi to Yale avenues appeals to him because of the wide range of people represented along this stretch, from different income brackets and backgrounds. He also appreciates the art, local businesses, food options and transit stops along the way. And he always looks forward to relaxing at Gypsy House Cafe, at 1545 South Broadway.
click to enlarge
This section of Mississippi Avenue has some terrible sidewalks.
Conor McCormick-Cavanagh
The bad:

In coming up with this list, Stalls assessed routes from a Pedestrian Dignity vantage point, considering the dangers faced by people who walk, use a wheelchair or take the bus.

Colorado Boulevard between Seventh and Alameda avenues
Of all the thoroughfares that bother Stalls, Colorado Boulevard tops the list — and the section from Seventh to Alameda is the worst of the worst. "It's an impossible corridor for so many on such a practical transit/destination/mobility route," he says. "It's embarrassing for a city and state to have roads that literally ignore the needs of pedestrians on such a high-use network."

Sheridan Boulevard between Tenth and 52nd avenues
This section of Sheridan has alternating sidewalks on many stretches, requiring a pedestrian who is walking or rolling to constantly shift sides, crossing a heavily trafficked street in the process. "This is another practical, high-transit route corridor that ultimately ignores pedestrian and wheelchair mobility," Stalls says. "While improvements are coming to the Edgewater stretch next to Sloan's Lake, it remains to be seen if improvements will stretch all the way to Tenth and all the way to 52nd."

Mississippi Avenue from Broadway to Federal Boulevard
Stalls often takes public officials, Colorado Department of Transportation workers and RTD employees for walks along this route. While it has many positive elements, including mixed-income and public housing, schools, grocery stores and a high-use bus route, it "largely ignores all aspects of pedestrian mobility," he says. "There are studies and planning committees being formed as we speak on making needed improvements to this area."

Alameda Avenue from Broadway to Federal Boulevard
Stalls is not fond of this section of Alameda, a transit/commuter corridor that he refers to as "one of the most dangerous" and "high-speed" stretches in Denver; it "largely neglects and dismisses the needs of pedestrian mobility as a connected, complete network," he says. And the intersection of Alameda and Federal is possibly the most dangerous in the city, the site of many "preventable pedestrian fatalities," he points out.

West Colfax Avenue and Federal Boulevard
This area has a lot of foot and wheelchair traffic related to "many origins and destinations," Stalls says, pointing to the Denver Human Services building, Servicios de la Raza, community health and mental health offices, clinics and mixed- and lower-income housing, a public library branch and stops for several high-use bus routes. But it's also incredibly inaccessible for pedestrians on foot or using wheelchairs, ranking as one of the most "chaotic, disconnected and uncomfortable environments for pedestrians," he says. Stalls notes that CDOT built a headquarters here in 2018, which underscores how car-centric this area has become.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.