New report highlights need for safer construction detours

by Jessica Vargas on March 28, 2019

Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee provides recommendations for safer construction detours

Sidewalks are a crucial component of the pedestrian network, and construction detours that block pedestrian passageways create persistent and sometimes dangerous situations for people navigating our streets on foot or in wheelchairs. Last year, the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee (MPAC) identified the need for better construction detour policies as one of their top priorities. Denver Public Works is responding by working on updates to these policies to better accommodate people walking and biking.

To support this effort, WalkDenver partnered with MPAC, Denver Public Works, and the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment last fall on a #DetoursForPeople campaign where we crowdsourced data about access and safety issues created by sidewalk and bike lane closures due to construction. Using an online tool, people could select the location of a detour, upload a picture, and answer a brief survey about the detour. MPAC has now compiled the data and released a new report using the data to inform their recommendations for updates to the Construction Detour Rules and Regulation Policy. 

The results of the #DetoursForPeople effort showed that the majority of detours reported – 90% – were rated as 1 or 2, or unsafe and inconvenient. Sidewalk closures were the most reported type of blockage/closure of the street; 91% of reported detours had a closed sidewalk. Of the reported detours with closed sidewalks, the majority did not have a parking lane or vehicle travel lane blocked, indicating that more pedestrian-friendly detours could be implemented (for example, closing a car or parking lane to provide a pedestrian walkway, rather than forcing pedestrians to cross the street).

The report outlines a number of recommendations for policy updates that would ensure continued accessibility, safety, comfort, and usability of people walking and rolling during construction detours. Here are some of the suggestions they have provided:

  • All possible measures should be taken to prevent construction detours requiring pedestrians to cross the street to detour, as this presents the greatest safety risks for pedestrians.
  • Street occupancy permits must strongly prioritize pedestrian safety and any deviation from this should be an exception requiring additional scrutiny and approval.
  • Pedestrian detours that require crossing the street should not be considered acceptable on any street on the Vision Zero High Injury Network (HIN), in Pedestrian Priority Areas (as outlined in the Denver Moves: Pedestrian & Trails Plan), and within a quarter-mile of high-need resources, such as transit stops, grocery stores, schools, parks, or healthcare centers.
  • In addition to the HIN, streets with higher traffic volumes and/or higher speeds should also have stronger requirements for providing safe pedestrian passage without crossing the street.
  • All pedestrian detours, whether with barriers, shed roof walkways, or crossing the street, should be compliant with ADA regulations, including curb cuts and ramps.

While the City is working on updates to construction detour policies, it has already made some process improvements, such as requiring contractors to provide a traffic control plan that shows how all modes will be provided safe and convenient access around a project site, including pedestrians, people on bikes and scooters, transit riders, and drivers. WalkDenver congratulates MPAC on all their hard work on this very important issue. Read the full report at the link below!

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