In the multimodal stream of bike commutes, lightrails, bus routes, taxi rides, ski runs, and lines of traffic that surge around Denver every day, it’s easy to forget that the most basic form of transportation, which supports all others, is our feet. Denver transit is booming, and walking activists, city planners, and community members are all trying to solve the problem of how to get people from their homes to new hubs of transportation.
“We are finding that people don’t ride [public transit] as much as we hoped because they can’t access it,” says local walking advocate Gosia Kung. “Sidewalks have not been funded in the last 50 or 60 years.”
Denver’s pedestrian infrastructure runs the gamut: Cherry Creek has heated sidewalks, and Highlands, Five Points, and historic neighborhoods have wide flagstone. Sadly, neighborhoods like Westwood and Athmar have few sidewalks and sometimes less than 18 inches of pavement for kids to take on their way to school.
The reason some neighborhoods have strong sidewalks, Kung explains, is because they were developed in tandem with streetcars. Most residents of the time walked to the trolly to get to work. During the 60s, 70s, and 80s, however, Denver’s outer neighborhoods sprung up with the premise that most residents would have cars.
To address this uneven infrastructure, Denver City Council has formed a sidewalk working group led by Councilman Paul Kashmann that saw its first convening on January 27. If advocates like Kung are successful, the Council and eventually the mayor will both move to support public funding of sidewalks. “It’s not realistic for individual property owners to build and maintain their own sidewalks,” Kung says.
If you want to get involved with walking advocacy or explore the environment in town, you can take a walk, sign a petition, or even make a walkability inventory of your neighborhood.
Until better sidewalks appear for everyone in Denver, here are walking advocates’ favorite places best accessed by foot:
“[T]he small ‘goat trail’ that takes you through tall grasses around the fence just south of W 27th St and north of Speer [could be] a great fireworks spot. It overlooks downtown Denver and is (for now) a grassy hill that rests between the chaos of Speer Blvd and I-25. The view of downtown is gorgeous and uniquely different at all times of the day.” — Jonathan Stalls, founder, Walk2Connect
“The alley between Larimer and Walnut. 25th to around 28th. It’s amazing and can only be appreciated at walking speed. The Art is constantly changing, new and innovative, beautiful, varied and accessible to anyone who cares to take the time to take a walk. No price of admission.” — John Hayden, walking movement leader, Walk2Connect
“I love the Cherry Creek Trail for walking and biking. It’s well maintained and such a beautiful place when the seasons are changing. You can follow it all the way up to Confluence and Commons Parks and meander across the river through the multiple trails there.” — Kayla Gilbert, program coordinator, Denver Department of Public Health
“I love walking from the Golden Triangle neighborhood into downtown through Acoma Plaza, which passes between the Denver Art Museum and the Central Public Library and leads into Civic Center Park through the Greek amphitheater. This pedestrian-only route offers a fabulous array of art, architecture, and cityscape views, and is also always filled with people walking and lingering.” — Jill Locantore, policy and program director, Walk Denver
“One of my favorite places is through Confluence Park. I take it twice a day. You see wildlife, and in the summer, kids are swimming in the river. The route takes me over Millennium Bridge, with people walking to and from work. It’s a great transition from home to work.” — Gosia Kung, executive director, Walk Denver