Assignment Spotlight: Ali Brehm

Written by Ali Brehm, ESLLC 2015-2016

WalkDenver

WalkDenver was created because they believe that people are “pedestrians by design”. This has lead them advocate for policies and practices that will, by 2040, make Denver the most walkable city in the United States. They believe that Denver will then be the happiest, and healthiest, and thus the economy will thrive. The company would like to create places in Denver that are safe, comfortable, and fun to walk.

In the next 6 years, this company wants to create new pedestrian infrastructure, so that it fills critical gaps in the current infrastructure and addresses pedestrian safety hot spots so that it becomes safer to walk. They would also like to make improvements on the existing walking areas to bring them up to more modern standards. Third, they want to prioritize maintenance and continual assessment of pedestrian infrastructure. They would like to redesign the most dangerous streets to make them safer for all parties involved. Finally, this company wants to make police actions transparent and data-driven so that there is a focus on the most dangerous behaviors, the most problematic locations, and at-fault road users.

WalkDenver believes that a walkable city is one that leads to interconnectedness, with a regular interaction between neighbors and public areas that are vibrant and teeming with life. Increased walkability also creates a healthy community, with lower stress, lower levels of obesity, and increased life expectancy. A city being walkable also has economic impacts. With WalkDenver’s plans, more small businesses will flourish due to increased foot traffic. WalkDenvers plans are environmentally sustainable, in that they improve air quality, create less reliance on fossil fuels, and lower the carbon footprint. Finally, their ideas are inclusive and safe, with options for those with disability, and those who can’t drive because of their age or income, as well as making it less likely that traffic accidents occur and so that children can play outside with lessened risks.

WalkDenver has achieved many things in the last couple of years. They have collaborated with the City and County of Denver to “apply for a Walk Friendly Community Certification”, which is a national program that recognizes the communities that work to improve pedestrian safety and to improve walkability. Denver was given a Gold rating, along with 12 other communities across the United States. WalkDenver has created multiple projects that help to engage community members in thinking about and designing temporary demonstrations of pedestrian friendly infrastructure that has the influence of art, culture, small businesses, and street life. WalkDenver is also part of Denver’s Safe Routes to School Coalition, which works with parents, teachers, and community members to assess the pedestrian environment around schools to develop recommendations for both the short and long terms regarding infrastructure improvements that will make it safer for children to walk to school. PlaceMatters has partnered with WalkDenver to develop a tool for crowdsourcing data about walkability. People in the community can access this data and the tool from smartphones, tablets, and computers to report data about sidewalks, intersections, and the number of pedestrians. They use this to engage and educate residents, allowing them to understand the connection between walkability and the quality of life of those that live there, as well as give them a voice to talk about infrastructure improvements.

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