Two recent fatal high speed car crashes at 32nd Avenue and Lowell, and at 26th Avenue and Vrain St. have had residents calling for safety improvements to neighborhood streets.
City of Denver records show that there have been 53 significant crashes at 32nd Avenue and Lowell since 2013, with the crash in April being the first fatal one.
Hannah Hagener lives in the neighborhood and loves the 32nd Avenue strip and walkability of the neighborhood, but the number of times she has almost been hit by drivers when she was just walking to get coffee has been disconcerting with drivers speeding and turning at the intersection with poor visibility. Along with a group of other concerned residents and businesses organized by the Denver Streets Partnership, she spent days in late April going door to door at local businesses and talking to people on the street and neighbors to find out what the biggest concerns were, as well as what people in the neighborhood would like to see changed. Hannah said that the “biggest concern is speeding vehicles and pedestrian safety.” While 32nd and Lowell is a priority, she’s also concerned about 32nd and Meade St as well. Many employees of stores also expressed concerns about pulling onto 32nd Ave from side streets with limited visibility and speeding cars. They were also concerned about a “general lack of respect by drivers for the community with other vehicles and people walking around.” At the 6-8 businesses she spoke with in person, every single one expressed a concern that something needs to be done. “Daylighting” or removing a parking spot on the end of each block to increase intersection visibility had a ton of support.
Hannah also asked businesses if they would be in support of extending the pedestrian mall that occurs for the Sunday farmers’ market, to make it a weekend long thing. “It’s been really interesting. The majority of businesses agreed that would be great for the community and eliminate that major risk for pedestrians. A few of them thought it would be a really nice way to open up the space to bring more people, like Larimer Square or Pearl Street in Boulder. A bit of a way to reinvent the strip and bring together the people and the community.”
Jim Charlier also lives in the neighborhood right on 32nd Ave and is a nationally known transportation planner. He has noted that there is an “epidemic of speeding on 32nd Ave. It should be signed at a 15 or 20 mph [speed limit]. To have a 30 mph limit into a pedestrian zone with kids, strollers, dogs, on a very social street, is crazy.” He has observed cars coming eastbound during the morning commute often going close to 45 mph. He was really pleased with the installation of the traffic calming and rapid flashing beacon for pedestrians at 32nd Avenue and Julian St and hopes similar measures can be installed elsewhere on the street. Before that was installed, he observed about one crash per month at 32nd and Julian. Since then he hasn’t seen any crashes at the intersection. “It’s a clear record of success. The treatment they installed here at Julian at 32nd Ave is innovative. I give Denver credit, it’s good work. Something like that at Meade, Osceola, and Raleigh would make sense. Some sort of median to slow the cars down.” Charlier also noted that bulb outs at intersections could also improve safety, and that a pedestrian mall on 32nd Ave between Lowell and Meade would likely be a boon for local businesses, but recommended that the city allow a way for the 32 bus to continue to go through, similar to the 16th St mall.
On April 29th, according to a spokesperson, Denver Police installed a portable “speed feedback sign” on the 3400 block of West 32nd that “displays drivers’ speeds and allows the department to gather information about speed trends in the area.” At this time they do not have plans to install a red light or speed camera at the intersection. The city only has 4 of them and they are not movable. A potential expansion of the red light camera program was put on hold in January of 2019.
Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) spokesperson Heather Burke said that DOTI has made recent safety improvements on the 32nd Avenue corridor including the improvements at Julian, and paint and post bulb outs at Perry along with the conversion of the stop light to a stop sign. She indicated that “speed humps would not be an appropriate treatment, given the high vehicle volumes, with 8,000 or so people driving it each day.” Burke noted that DOTI will be looking at the Denver Police report and also listening to the community at an upcoming meeting to decide on what further improvements may be helpful.
At a meeting on May 4th organized by Councilwoman Amanda P. Sandoval and the West Highlands Neighborhood Association, DOTI staff came to present some near term options and get feedback from the community. The option discussed was to paint and post bulb outs at 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, along with daylighting, or the removal of one parking space on 3 corners to improve visibility. This would slow down traffic and also make the street crossing shorter for pedestrians. Staff said that additional street closures on 32nd Ave. and traffic circles do not appear to be on the table at this time. DOTI is also doing a citywide speed limit study at this time as well that may impact speed limits on the corridor.