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Denver councilwoman proposes no turns on red after deadliest year of pedestrian and cyclist accidents

Colorado roads became increasingly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists
Colorado roads became increasingly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists 03:44

Colorado roads have become increasingly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. The Colorado Department of Transportation says the state saw the deadliest year on record for people walking and biking.

According to CDOT, 136 pedestrians died on Colorado roads last year, up from 115 the year before and 20 cyclists died last year, up from 15 the year before.

Denver is also seeing a similar trend for fatal pedestrian and bicyclist accidents. According to the Denver Police Department and the Crash Data Dashboard, 32 people were killed while walking on Denver streets last year, up from 27 the year before.


That's why people who've been impacted are advocating for safer streets and city council is proposing ways to make them safe.

One idea that Denver City Councilwoman Shontel Lewis proposes is a study on banning turns at red lights throughout the city. Cities like Seattle and Washington D.C., have already adopted this.

The owner of a local restaurant supports the idea after he recently lost his employee to a fatal hit-and-run.

Giles Flanagin, the owner of Blue Pan Pizza, recalls the memories of his friend and employee, Nick Cordova. He said Cordova began as a server at the restaurant, then worked his way to being a shift leader and became an integral part of the company.

"He made Blue Pan so much better as a person and as a leader and just as a colleague, and we all loved him," said Flanagin.


In November, Cordova left work on a scooter. A driver struck and killed him near the intersection of Speer Boulevard and Grove Street.

"We're still doing our best to mourn his loss and remember what he did for the company. It was a really unfortunate event," said Flanagin.

Cordova's story is just one behind the alarming numbers.

"I think it's a very systemic issue, right? Where we have these roads like Federal that are designed as highways," said Allen Cowgill, an advocate for safer streets.

Cowgill is also part of the Denver Bicycle Lobby and co-chairs the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure's advisory board. He said 20% of the city's roads cause 80% of the problems. 

One example is the intersection of Federal Boulevard and 14th Avenue, just south of Colfax Avenue near Mile High Stadium. It's one of the most dangerous intersections in the city.


"The street is 100-feet wide and you have a lot of transit users, you have a lot of pedestrians crossing it, and it's a 35 mile an hour speed limit, but drivers often go faster. Drivers are often running red lights," said Cowgill.

He added, that because the road is so large, it's not enough time for people to cross, especially the elderly. Plus, larger vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs are another reason for the increase in accidents.

Lewis said she often hears from her constituents on how to make streets safer. She's had conversations with other cities about banning turns on red lights and also spoke with coalitions across Denver about the idea.

"Really, it's a safety measure and a safety precaution for those that are utilizing our streets, not having to compete with cars to get home," said Lewis.

"Especially along our high-injury corridors and in downtown where people are being disproportionately injured, is a great idea," said Cowgill, who added this will make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.


Lewis also acknowledged no progress has been made with Vision Zero, the city's campaign to zero traffic deaths by 2030.

"We're nowhere near close to that. When you see that you continue to miss the mark year over year, there has to be some urgency to say we might need to do something different," said Lewis.

She added that more funding is needed for Vision Zero and making safer streets for everyone.

Flanagin said he'd like to see change within enforcement and policy to make streets safer.

"I really hope that there's some strong leadership and some strong energy put behind enforcing the rules that are on the books and coming up with new ideas that could curb irresponsible driving behavior," said Flanagin.

In the meantime, signs and flyers are still hung seeking any information about what happened to Cordova that November night.

"We're hoping that by getting the word out, and not letting the incident be forgotten about, that somehow, somebody's brought to justice what they did," said Flanagin. "It means a lot to us still to this day. We really miss him."


Lewis also pushed to amend the 2024 city budget to include $500,000 to be allocated toward Vision Zero. State lawmakers have also introduced a bill this session that could also create additional funding for Vision Zero.

Cowgill understands that it all comes down to a budget issue. Regardless, he'd like to see narrower lanes, narrower corners, larger medians for pedestrians and cyclists and people in wheelchairs and the elderly. He added that he'd like to also see more speed cameras on the roads and red light cameras at intersections.

As for Cordova's case, Denver police said no arrests have been made and the case is still under investigation.

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