A fresh start for mobility in Denver?

by Jill Locantore on July 23, 2015

Walking and biking are hot topics at the beginning of the Mayor’s and City Council members’ new terms

The inauguaration of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for his second term at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, Colorado.Mayor Michael Hancock and new city council members prior to taking the oath of office.  Photo: Denver Post.

Just days before the swearing in ceremony marking the start of new terms for the Mayor and City Council members, outgoing Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher released a report strongly criticizing the city for not adequately funding bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Since adopting Denver Moves in 2011, a multi-modal transportation plan focused primarily on bicycle infrastructure, the City has allocated just $2.8 million toward the $119 million needed to implement the plan.  “Talk is cheap and apparently so is the funding of the plan,” Gallagher told Streetsblog Denver. “The Mayor and City Council have identified Denver Moves as one of the City’s foremost priorities yet insufficient funding is resulting in a failure to meet the goal of an easy to use network for bicycle and pedestrian transportation.”

In a recent interview with the Denver Business Journal, Mayor Hancock identified “mobility” as one of three top priorities for his second term. “Quality of life is built on jobs and mobility — the ability to get to those jobs, we have a biking and walking culture and we’re growing, they’re coming here,” he said.  The Mayor expanded on this idea in his inaugural address: “Cars are no longer the only ones using Denver’s roads. More people are walking, biking, busing, scootering, Ubering and tuk-tuking around town. We need more sustainable choices, and it is clear we will not receive meaningful federal aid as Congress continues its failure to pass legislation that will help cities fix their aging infrastructure.”

Whether the Mayor will back up these assertions with meaningful funding remains to be seen. Encouragingly, several of the newly seated City Council members have expressed support for a dedicated funding source for building and maintaining pedestrian infrastructure.  For example, in response to a candidate survey conducted by Healthier Colorado, District 10 Councilman Wayne New stated “I would support some dedicated funding arrangement and schedule for improving our sidewalks. As an example, on Colorado Boulevard, one of our busiest city streets, there are areas of no sidewalks for walking or waiting for RTD – an accident waiting to happen. Pedestrian safety should be a top goal and priority for our City.”

WalkDenver, in partnership with Mile High Connectsand BBC Research & Consulting, has been investigating funding strategies for pedestrian, bicycle, and other infrastructure that can provide “first and last mile connections” to transit.  We will release the final report and recommendations at an event scheduled for August 6. Stay tuned for more information!

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