On the morning of September 11th, 2020, North Denver resident Tim Campbell was on his way to a doctor’s appointment at Denver Health. He was crossing West Colfax at Irving in his wheelchair when a driver ran a red light and hit him. Tim tragically died later that morning after being rushed to Denver Health by Paramedics.
Tim lived in the West Colfax neighborhood for 18 years at Liberty House. He was well known and recognized in the community. Tim was a member of Merritt Memorial United Methodist Church in Sloan’s Lake. When that church closed, he and his dog Bella became well known members of Highlands United Methodist Church in West Highland where he served as both a liturgist and an usher.
He attended Boettcher school in Denver where fellow alumnus Kathleen Traylor knew him as an enthusiastic member of the choir. Kathleen invited him to join the Phamily Theatre Company a few years later, and he was one of the first cast members.
During a production of “Anything Goes” Kathleen said that Tim “was great at wheelchair dancing. He could move his wheelchair so perfectly. He could move his wheelchair so precisely. He was so good at it and clapped his hands to the beat. He was so spot on. That was my favorite moment to watch Tim on stage.”
His niece Alita Anderson remembered Tim for his dry sense of humor and his huge heart, being willing to do anything for his friends and family. “My life got to a point where we really needed someone. We were living on the streets, and had nowhere else to go. Tim opened up his door, and gave us a place to live.” Alita and husband Dan were still living with Tim when the crash occurred and even a few weeks later, processing the sudden tragedy has been tough. “I’m still in shock. It’s not real.”
According to the Denver Streets Partnership, Tim’s death marks the 13th person who was killed by a driver on West Colfax Ave since January of 2019. The arterial road is part of Denver’s high injury network, one of the 5% of streets that accounts for 50% of all traffic deaths.
The Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) has allocated $700,000 from the Elevate DenverBond to design safety improvements that were based on community input over the last few years. They applied for a $6.7 million grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation to implement Vision Zero improvement to lower the number of crashes on this street. Potential improvements include pedestrian bulb outs to shorten the crossing distance, and reconstructing the existing median, which will calm traffic and reduce driver speeds by visually narrowing the road. It will also provide a refuge for pedestrians in the middle of the street as they cross. If awarded the grant, the improvements would be completed in 2024.
In response to this latest fatal crash, spokesperson Heather Burke noted that DOTI will be making near term safety improvements, including retiming the traffic signals to reduce vehicle speeds, and adding leading pedestrian intervals on crosswalk signs to give people more time to cross before the signal turns green for drivers.
Jaime Lewis, a Transportation Advocate at Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, noted that tragically “it takes a death like this to get things sped up a little bit. Focus on the fact that there are things that can stop [traffic deaths] and they need to implement [improvements] as quickly as possible.” He noted that the city recently made quick and affordable improvements on East Colfax with plastic bollards, as a temporary measure to calm traffic. In his opinion, those improvements seemed to make a significant improvement for pedestrians on that section of East Colfax.
Advocates from the Denver Streets Partnership held an event on October 11 to remember Tim and raise awareness of the significant amount of fatalities on this stretch of road, in hopes that improvements to West Colfax can be made more quickly.
Tim’s family recently launched a GoFundMe to help cover funeral and end of life expenses. Neighbors wanting to contribute can go to: https://gf.me/u/yyr8iv.