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'A Matter Of Political Will': Victims Of Deadly Traffic Crashes Remembered At Denver Vigil

DENVER (CBS4) - On Wednesday, Denver Streets Partnership, along with the Denver Bicycle Lobby, held a bike ride and a walk of silence to honor those killed in preventable traffic crashes on Denver streets over the last year.

"A total of 114 people have been killed since January of 2021," said Jill Locantore, the executive director of Denver Streets Partnership.

In 2021, there were 84 traffic deaths in the city, the most since the city's Vision Zero campaign started. This year alone, there have been 30 deaths on Denver streets-- five of those in the month of May. Currently, the city is on track to exceed last year's numbers.

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"Unfortunately, I know firsthand how tragic it is when someone is killed either walking or riding their bicycle," said Denver resident Keith Reed.

A little more than a year ago, Reed's wife Teri of 40 years was killed in Oklahoma when she was leaving work trying to cross the street to get to her car. Reed relocated to Colorado just six weeks ago.

"It sucks. It's terrible. What do you say? It turns our whole world upside down," he said. "For me or for my sons, to try to get by day to day now, and have to deal with cars or traffic or whatever, it's a struggle."

In 2017, Denver's mayor launched the Vision Zero Campaign with the goal of having zero traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030. In 2021, the city said it completed 160 projects to improve safety. While the program has made improvements, Locantore said there's much more work ahead.

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"We need to refocus attention on these major arterials like Colfax Avenue, like Federal Boulevard, and we need to fundamentally transform how these streets function," she said.

Locantore added that means investing in bus infrastructure and other transit services, which would make street designs safer, because lives depend on it.

"Traffic deaths are preventable. It's just a matter of political will," Locantore said. "Do we value human life and safety over the speed and convenience of driving our own cars?"

Nancy Kuhn, a spokesperson with the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure and Vision Zero said in a statement,

"The Vision Zero Action Plan calls on us to focus our investments on the city's high injury network – these are the streets where most fatal and serious injury crashes are happening in the city. We've made hundreds of safety improvements so far and more are coming, including along Broadway, West Colfax and Morrison Road (to name a few). We acknowledge we have more work to do and we ask our community to help reduce fatal crashes by driving more slowly, looking out for people walking and biking, and wearing their seatbelts."

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