Denver: Pedestrian Master Plan

Denver created a 2004 Pedestrian Master Plan as a response to previous citywide planning documents. Its 2000 Comprehensive Plan directed the city to provide more transportation choices and encourage modes that reduced impacts on urban environments. Blueprint Denver, which followed a year later, referred to the pedestrian environment as the city’s primary transportation element and recommended that Denver create a pedestrian master plan.

The pedestrian master plan created a citywide pedestrian network, recommended pedestrian-friendly policies, and identified improvement projects in order to fulfill its stated goals of safety, accessibility, education, connectivity, streetscape, land use, and public health. To guide the plan’s development, Denver created an advisory team with staff from the city’s Public Works, Community Planning and Development, and Parks and Recreation departments, along with citizen advisers.

The advisory team reviewed existing city plans and conducted a citywide inventory to determine where sidewalks were attached, detached, or missing. Denver held four public workshops to learn which pedestrian issues and concerns were most important to the public.

The city created a pedestrian network by adopting all of the enhanced bus-transit corridors and the Green Streets as pedestrian routes and supplementing them based on a geographic-information-systems (GIS) analysis of pedestrian destinations. If an enhanced bus-transit corridor or a green street did not already connect concentrations of pedestrian destinations, the city identified additional pedestrian routes to bridge them. The GIS model was based on five land use features: light rail transit stations, schools, parks, and libraries. Sidewalk locations were then weighted based on the type of land use feature and their proximity to them.  The city then held five additional public workshops to confirm the best streets were selected within the pedestrian-route network. The public also recommended specific pedestrian upgrades.

Denver’s sidewalk system had traditionally been built and paid for by individual property owners, one project at a time. The Pedestrian Master Plan recommended the city play a more direct role in building and maintaining sidewalks and crossings. The plan proposed to study three new mechanisms to fund small to medium projects: assessing an annual sidewalk fee from property owners, authorizing the Public Works Manager to require adjacent property owners to upgrade their sidewalks to meet City standards, and creating an annual sidewalk-maintenance program within Denver’s Capital Improvement Project Budget. The plan outlined the next steps to ensure successful implementation of the new system: Assess the pedestrian network to identify needs and integrate them into the city’s project list; allocate resources to ensure consistent pedestrian-friendly standards are met; support the creation of a pedestrian-advocacy group; and pursue alternative funding mechanisms to help finance pedestrian infrastructure.  The city is making strides in these efforts; it updated its curb and sidewalk regulations in 2007, and has supported the 2011 start of WalkDenver, a nonprofit pedestrian-advocacy group, as it tries to get the city certified as a Walk Friendly Community.

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.