Students propose creative ideas for improving neighborhood walkability

by Jessica Vargas on December 20, 2018

WalkDenver was delighted to partner with two different university classes this fall on projects aimed at improving walkability in Denver neighborhoods.

Assessing walkability and transit access in East Denver

For the fifth year in a row, we partnered with students in the University of Colorado Denver’s Urban and Regional Planning program to conduct a neighborhood “walk audit,” which this year focused on the Bellevue-Hale, Mayfair, and Montclair neighborhoods.The area is bounded by East Colfax Avenue on the north, Monaco Street Parkway on the east, East Sixth Avenue Parkway on the south, and Colorado Boulevard on the west. There was not much WALKscope data collected in this part of the city that is near some major bus routes, including the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along Colfax. The students also made recommendations for how to improve the walkability of the area and better connect the residents to the existing and future transit. 

Last week, WalkDenver and local community members gathered at the Art Gym on East Colfax to hear the students present on their findings. The twelve teams were all assigned different sections of the study area but some recurring themes came up throughout all of them. The inconsistent sidewalk infrastructure was the most obvious problem with the pedestrian environment. Much of the neighborhood is either missing sidewalks altogether or has very narrow rollover curbs, making it unsafe and unpleasant to walk to nearby businesses, services, and transit. Students said they often observed people walking in the street alongside traffic, and neighbors they interviewed said that they often chose to drive to neighborhood destinations a few blocks away because of the lack of safe sidewalks and the often fast-moving traffic.

Vehicle speeding was also a major concern brought up in the students’ presentations. The study area is bounded by four fast-moving arterial streets, including two – Colorado Blvd and Colfax Ave – that are part of the High Injury Network. Three more arterials run through the area, with few pedestrian crossings. The students recommended a number of traffic calming elements that would support more walking, biking, and transit use. With the number of bus lines already running through the area and the BRT investments planned nearby, many of the presentations included recommendations to prioritize pedestrian improvements that connect residents to transit. By focusing on ways to safely and efficiently move people rather than just cars through the neighborhood, residents would have more transportation options and rely less on their personal vehicles.

The students’ findings reinforce survey results from the City’s East Area Neighborhood Planning Initiative, where residents identified traffic, speeding, sidewalks, and walkability among their top concerns, and their recommendations will help inform the planning initiative going forward. If you’d like to learn more about the students’ data collection and recommendations, you can browse through the final reports HERE

Colorful placemaking ideas for the Montbello community

This year, WalkDenver also had the opportunity to partner with Metropolitan State University of Denver on a community-based design course in which students learn how to implement design solutions and strategies that create positive change for underserved communities. We connected them with the Montbello Freshlo Initiative that includes a plan to create a walkable loop connecting neighborhood destinations.

After UCD planning students did a walkability assessment of Montbello two years ago, the community was able to use this data and the students’ recommendations to come up with a neighborhood route where improvements could be made to promote walking and biking to local schools, parks, health services, transit, and businesses. While more permanent improvements could take longer to implement, the students brainstormed a number of interim solutions that both promote active transportation and celebrate community identity. They came up with colorful design tactics such as artistic crosswalks and curb extensions, intersection murals, and enhanced bus stops. You can see a few examples of their ideas below. We’d like to thank all these talented students for their hard work this semester!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: