Denverites will soon take their lives in their hands less often and maybe curse less because of sidewalks closed for construction

Public Works has finished updating its standards, which to this point have resulted in people walking with cars.
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A pedestrian canopy covering a walkway by a demolition project at 10th Avenue and Bannock Street, March 27, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Construction companies looking to build stuff will have to follow new rules to keep pedestrians and wheelchair users safe in construction zones, Denver Public Works announced Wednesday.

Mayor Michael Hancock's streets department has been working on new guidelines since last May, when the Mayor's Pedestrian Advisory Committee and other advocates pushed for changes to a permitting system that closes sidewalks and forces people walking into the street or across it.

Denver issues about 20,000 permits per year that let various organizations block the right of way. Until now, contractors could buy themselves out of providing a detour for pedestrians, and they did. Often.

On Feb. 1, that rule changed. Companies building more than one-story high must now provide a "pedestrian canopy" (those things you see in New York that say "Post No Bills" with bills posted all over them). The policy doesn't apply if all of these things are true, which seems rare:

  • the sidewalk is closed for seven days or less
  • the contractor demonstrates a canopy is not in the best interest of pedestrian safety
  • the company received a permit before February 1
  • there's a safe, convenient detour in the immediate area

In other words, existing projects might force people walking and rolling elsewhere, but new projects won't have that ability.

The future site of a bike lane between Champa Street and Broadway that will be part of the 5280 Loop, April 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

"It's a fantastic step in the right direction to use the city's existing policies that they have more effectively," said Jill Locantore, executive director of WalkDenver.

Still, Locantore worried that there's still no policy for blocking bike lanes. She's also looking forward to an overhaul to the department's rules and regulations, which are in the works, according to DPW spokeswoman Heather Burke.

The new rules require permit applicants to submit a plan to manage traffic and parking as well.

"The parking plan must aim to minimize impacts to surrounding businesses and residences," Burke said in a statement.

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