When Denver’s transportation department closed a handful of streets to cars and opened them to people walking, rolling and biking, some said it was a big, overdue move that returns car-dominated thoroughfares to the people. Others said it was an overreach that stole public space from motorists and gave it to…the public.
Both sides have reason to be thrilled and angry. On Saturday I biked to all eight segments. Supporters of the peopled streets will be happy to know that some were indeed peopled. Pedestrians, bicyclists, bladers, wheelchair users, skateboarders and scooter…ists abounded.
“It’s ideal in the street because otherwise we’d be in the alley with broken glass and stuff,” said Anthony Vigil, who was teaching his daughter how to scoot a Razr on Stuart Street in Sloan’s Lake.
Ross Krandel and Ben Kotz were long-boarding down 11th Avenue in Capitol Hill, carving back and forth luxuriously like Elaine from that one “Seinfeld” episode.
“The park was packed,” Krandel said. “And we’re just trying to get outside without the crowds, not have some heavy-breathing workout.”
Then there was this crew on South Marion Parkway, taking full advantage:
On other streets, though, cars and trucks still dominated. A driver had just buzzed Jonathan Pitocco, who was riding his bike on a supposedly car-lite Irving Street in Barnum, when I ran into him. He said the execution on Irving was “disappointing” compared to what he expected. He’d interacted with about 10 cars, most of them speeding. Still, “the Sloan’s Lake road closures I’ve been enjoying for weeks now have been a dream,” he said.
Motorists are still allowed to drive on the “closed” streets because they’re open to residents and technically only closed to through traffic. The barriers give drivers plenty of room to enter and exit each block.
Anna Sierra lives on the portion of Irving that is supposedly closed to cars but said she wouldn’t let her kids play in the street.
“Too many cars,” she said from her porch, a gaggle of children in her front yard behind a fence.
Here’s my ranking of the most car-banned-but-still-car-filled streets, listed from full of cars to pedestrian heaven. Fight me.
8. Irving Street between 2nd Avenue and Gill Place
Not good. I saw two people not in cars use the street, which actually isn’t even closed for the whole segment. Four blocks did not have barriers.
7. Bolling Drive between Dillon Street and Chambers Road
Nothing wrong with the barriers, but no one was using the street except me and the 14 cars and trucks that passed me. One kid was driving a car on the sidewalk — one of those little battery-powered deals.
6. Byron Place between Zenobia and Stuart streets
Drivers ignored the barriers on half of this segment, from Vrain Street to Zenobia. It felt like a regular old road. But the other half felt like a nice extension of Sloan’s Lake Park.
5. Bayaud Avenue between Downing and Sherman streets
It was fine, but motorists claimed some space. The foot and bike traffic slowed their roll, though.
4. Stuart Street between 24th and 21st avenues
Pleasant and populated.
3. 16th Avenue between Lincoln Street and City Park Esplanade
This stretch was packed with all types of cabin fever escapees. But the street wasn’t closed at Lincoln Street as advertised.
2. 11th Avenue between Lincoln and Humboldt streets
It was poppin’. The closer to Lincoln, the more cars, but otherwise this street was flooded with people, rendering those annoying half-painted bike lanes moot. At least for now.
1. South Marion Parkway between Virginia Avenue and Downing Street
Maybe it’s because the stretch is so close to Wash Park, but it was the only segment where I did not encounter one driver mixing it up with the crowds of urban outdoors people. Highly recommend.