Vision Zero Comes to University Neighborhood

Photo: Evans Avenue pedestrian crosswalk. Pedestrian island to be completed this week – weather permitting. Signals will be pedestrian controlled. 

An article about a traffic light? Well, yes. And they are an important addition to the DU neighborhood – and here’s why.

The City of Denver’s Vision Zero Program was created to eliminate vehicle-pedestrian fatalities. The two strategies outlined in the program include better visibility for pedestrians crossing streets and slowing metro traffic speeds in concentrated pedestrian areas. That study identified a need for a new pedestrian traffic signal along Evans Avenue, immediately west of the University of Denver.

They are currently installing a new, mid-block traffic light between South Williams and South Gilpin on Evans Avenue. Fifty foot wide sidewalks were extended into what were parking spaces for added pedestrian visibility. And, a mid-street pedestrian island will be constructed over the next several weeks. The block encompasses retail location’s  to include Illegal Pete’s, Kaladi Coffee, Deiter’s Chocolate and  Jelly’s to the south with the Stadium Inn, Art Hookah Lounge, Snarfs, Campus Cleaners and DU’s Fisher Early Learning Center on the north side of Evans.

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LetsGoDU readers can now make a direct trek from the Stadium Inn to Illegal Pete’s for a late night burrito with the new pedestrian crossing.

According to a City of Denver study (2011-2015), crashes typically occur in locations like this with high pedestrian activity along commercial corridor. Of a studied 1,876 categorized crashes in the City of Denver, 405 occurred in mid-block locations like this with 72% of those accidents resulting in injury and 5% fatalities.

The value of mid-block traffic signals is outlined in the City of Denver study, “With 22% percent of all crashes occurring mid-block, the City should evaluate installing either pedestrian signals or full signals in places that are 300 feet away or greater than the nearest intersection provided adequate pedestrian demand is observed. Options for mid-block crossings include a full traffic signal and/or rapid flashing beacons.” The 5-year goal is zero fatalities.

Data further suggests that slowing traffic on Evans Avenue will save lives. Accidents at 20 mph result in 13% fatalities while cars hitting pedestrians at 30 or 40 mph result in 40% to 73% fatality rates, respectively.

Until now, with traffic lights at High Street and Franklin, separated by a long distance, many pedestrians take their chances mid-block.

Near this location, a DU student, Wilson King from Winnetka, Illinois was killed crossing Evans Avenue. And there have been other reported University-area auto-pedestrian encounters as well as a serious hit and run accident involving a DU volleyball player in the past year. And, as the Denver metropolitan area becomes even more congested, auto-pedestrian accidents are sure to increase without such a plan.

A secondary benefit is slowing traffic between the two traffic lights at South High Street and South Franklin Street will provide merchants with greater visibility with slowed/stopped traffic. On the other hand, a manager at Kaladi Coffee complained that they “lost all their street parking spaces with the new crosswalk.” Also, as part of the University of Denver’s Impact 2025 strategy, one of the main ideas is to slow traffic in the University and University Park corridor with traffic lights, medians and bike lanes to create a distinct University neighborhood area and ‘DU District’.

Separately, approximately a year ago, with the current construction in the middle of campus, the University of Denver added flashing lights on Asbury Avenue to the two pedestrian crosswalks for additional safety. Also, at the mid-campus Evans Avenue crosswalk, a  larger ‘safety island’ was installed in the roadway median to account for the elimination of the Driscoll Bridge over Evans Avenue during construction.

As always, be safe over the holidays and Go Pioneers!

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