Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) installed paint and post bulb outs (curb extensions) at the intersection of West 32nd Ave and Lowell Blvd in late August. The safety improvements came after a fatal car crash in April. The installation consists of plastic bollard posts that effectively shorten the distance of the street crossing for pedestrians and tighten the turn radius for people driving so that vehicles have to slow down when turning from one street to the other.
People we spoke with on the street found the change to be largely positive. A few days after the improvements went in, we spoke with Justin, who had parked his bike at the bike parking corral next to the intersection and lives a few blocks away from Highlands Square. “I think it’s great. It slows people down that have been going way too fast at this intersection. Obviously, we’ve had some tragic accidents here.”
James Emerson, General Manager of El Camino Tavern, located a few doors down from the intersection, also thought it was a positive improvement but there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. “It’s a good start because it helps curb the drivers that park illegally in the crosswalk, and it makes them take the corners a little less sharp and makes pedestrians a little more safe. But it is certainly a far cry from what we need for the neighborhood. I think we need stop signs and crosswalks at all of the intersections on 32nd Ave really between Julian and Perry to slow traffic down and make it safer for pedestrians. I just think it’s important that we are proactive about this and fix this obvious problem before there is another tragic incident that is avoidable.”
DOTI staff joined a virtual meeting on Tuesday Sep 7th at the West Highland Neighborhood Association to discuss future improvements to the street. DOTI Area Engineer Abi Subramanian noted that while the paint and post bulb outs were complete, some of the sign work still needs to be done. The no parking signs need to be moved a little further back so that sight lines are improved at the intersection, and so that drivers and pedestrians can better see around the corner without parked cars blocking the view quite so much.
Subramanian noted there are studies underway for all way stop signs to be installed at 32nd Ave and Newton, 30th Ave and Lowell and also 33rd Ave and Julian. There was also a request at Lowell and Moncrief about the existing pedestrian crossing sign and whether or not a crosswalk could be stripped in conjunction with that sign.
Data collection was paused over the summer months since traffic patterns and volumes are often different during the school year. “With the school year having just started, we are picking up the data collection”.
DOTI Transportation Project Manager Karen Good noted that the best way for community members to request safety improvements is to submit them via Denver’s 311 call center or on the web at pocketgov.com. She also noted there is currently a large backlog of requests for street improvements so it may take some time, but all requests are tracked and documented in DOTI’s system if submitted through 311 or Pocketgov.
Based on community member questions in the meeting, DOTI staff indicated that putting in a “no left hand turn” sign at 32nd and Lowell is not possible due to the current volume of traffic at the intersection potentially being diverted onto neighborhood streets if a “no left turn” sign is installed. They also explained that the 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard paint and post bulb outs are a quick build treatment. So they won’t be turned into more permanent concrete bulb outs in the near term but could potentially be in the future.
In the meantime, the Denver Streets Partnership and Denver Community Active Living Coalition have micro grants available if any community members, organizations, or business want to hire local artists to paint murals in the bulb out areas on the street next to the curb at 32nd and Lowell. Information for these is available at https://www.denvercalc.org/microgrants