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2019 Annual Report


 

 

vision zero

 

Vision Zero is the City and County of Denver’s program to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. There are five fundamental principles central to Vision Zero:

  1. Traffic deaths and severe injuries are acknowledged to be preventable.
  2. Human life and health are prioritized within all aspects of the transportation system.
  3. Acknowledgment that human error is inevitable, and transportation systems should be forgiving.
  4. Safety work should focus on systems-level changes above influencing individual behavior.
  5. Mitigation of speed is recognized and prioritized as the fundamental factor in crash severity.

(Source: Vision Zero Network)

Action Plan

The City and County of Denver’s Vision Zero Action Plan was released in 2017, focusing on the most vulnerable users on Denver’s roadways, and on the city’s most dangerous corridors. Actions were defined around five key themes guiding the creation of safer streets:

  1. Enhance city processes and collaboration
  2. Build safe streets for everyone
  3. Create safe speeds
  4. Promote a culture of safety
  5. Improve data and be transparent

The Action Plan relies on collaboration among City departments and external partner agencies, in recognition that such a complex problem requires a multi-pronged approach that goes beyond “business as usual.”

Key City & County of Denver Agencies

  • Denver Public Works / Denver Department of Transportation & Infrastructure (DOTI) — in 2019, city council referred a measure to Denver voters to amend the city charter and create the Department of Transportation & Infrastructure. Following voter approval, the Department of Public Works became DOTI as of January 1, 2020.
  • Denver Police Department (DPD)
  • Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE)
  • Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR)
  • Denver Fire Department (DFD)
 

Vision Zero Community Partners

  • Denver Street Partnership (DSP)
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA)
  • Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)
  • Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG)
  • Regional Transit District (RTD)
  • Denver Health
 

2019 Crash Statistics

In 2019, there were 67 fatal crashes, resulting in 70 fatalities.

Denver Transportation Fatalities by Year

Fatalities increased by more than 15 percent compared to 2018. This is the highest number of deaths recorded on Denver’s roadways this decade.

 

bar graph showing fatalities from 2015 through 2019, with 70 total fatalities in 2019

Source: DPD & NHTSA-CDOT FARS

 

Denver Transportation Serious Bodily Injuries by Year

Serious bodily injuries (SBIs), which had been trending downward for two years, also increased. It is imperative that the City continue devoting resources to reducing traffic fatalities and SBIs.

So many lives have been lost and changed forever in preventable traffic crashes, and we recognize that there is a lot of hard work left to do. 

 

bar graph showing five years of serious injuries from crashes over five years, with small rise in 2019 

 

Denver Commuter Modes and Transportation Deaths — 2019


pie chart of commute types, with 70 percent in cars, about 2 percent on bikes and 4 and a half percent walking, and of traffic deaths, with 41 percent in cars, 32 percent walking, 21 percent on motorcycles, and 4 percent on bikes


Vision Zero identified a High Injury Network (HIN) in Denver - the corridors with the highest number of fatal and injury crashes. These streets connect all of Denver's neighborhoods. The HIN accounts for just 5% of streets in Denver.

The report also identified “Communities of Concern” to highlight areas near schools, near roadways with high speeds, in areas along the High Injury Network, and in neighborhoods with residents who are lower income, older, have a disability, or do not drive. 

The Communities of Concern areas are now part of the DOTI Equity Index – a map indicating the areas of Denver that require more resources and more significant investments in infrastructure and communities to ensure all residents have access to safer streets.

The Equity Index takes into account additional demographic and census data, such as Female Heads of Household, English language proficiency and lack of proficiency, and minority populations. All of these factors are weighted to give consideration to the importance of the input data sets in determining equity across the city.

 

 

 

2019 Fatal Crashes: Top Driver Contributing Factors and Actions

top four causes of fatal crashes, with 25 percent caused by reckless or careless driving, 10 percent by aggressiving driving, 11 percent failure to yield or stop, and 8 percent impairement

 

Aggressive driving and reckless driving includes speeding: As reported by the Governors Highway Safety Association, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of every crash, or to identify a single cause, because sometimes more than one factor contributes to a crash. The role of speeding in crashes is likely underestimated.

Vehicle speeding not only increases the chances of a crash, but also increases the risk of death or serious injury if a crash occurs. Even if speeding is not identified as the primary factor causing a crash, it plays an important role in the severity of many crashes. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration, 35 percent of all fatalities in Colorado in 2017 were speeding related.

Source: Speeding Away from Zero: Rethinking a Forgotten Traffic Safety Challenge, January 2019

 

Peer Cities: Fatalities per 100,000 population

fatality trends for Denver, Charlotte, Nashville, Columbus, Minneapolis and Portland, with Denver the third highest in 2019


2019 Major Activities

Denver Responds to a Crash Crisis

In the first half of 2019, Denver was averaging eight transportation fatalities per month. This alarming statistic called for the city to escalate its response in an effort to reverse this troubling trend. DOTI, DPD and DDPHE prioritized the following infrastructure, education and enforcement strategies for 2019:

  • Installing more “In-street” pedestrian crossing signage and high visibility crosswalks
  • Improving visibility at intersections, with more consistent parking setbacks and use of on-street bike corrals to change sightlines
  • Enhancing protected bike lanes
  • Increasing the number of driver feedback signs to alert passing motorists of their speeds
  • Exploring additional low-cost safety treatments, such as shortening crossing distances and adding midblock crossing refuges
  • Promoting safe driving habits among Denver’s youth and improving safe routes to school
  • Increasing enforcement of traffic laws and unsafe behaviors on city streets.

These new goals required a new approach for all agencies involved. DOTI met daily at 8am to track daily SBI and traffic fatalities, address internal preventable crashes and facility safety improvements, and to ensure that all Vision Zero infrastructure projects were on track for successful delivery.

Denver’s ambitious and critical 2019 goals were all met thanks to the strong partnerships within city agencies, and with support from Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the community. Fatalities trended downward, averaging 3.5 per month from September through December 2019, a promising development for safer streets.

In 2020, the DOTI leadership team continues to meet weekly to plan Vision Zero infrastructure, policy, and program efforts. Additionally, leadership from DOTI, DPD and other Vision Zero stakeholders meet on a regular basis to plan and discuss cross-departmental efforts. This collaboration has resulted in substantially faster implementation of the Vision Zero Action Plan in 2019. The City is committed to continuing these efforts.

Vision Zero Action Plan
Progress

The Vision Zero Action Plan, released in 2017, included 67 action items in five key categories. At the end of 2019, almost 80 percent of the goals for 2018 and 2019 were either in progress or completed. 

 
  In progress or completed
Enhance Processes and Collaboration 78%
Build Safe Streets for Everyone 83%
Create Safe Speeds 62%
Promote a Culture of Safety 75%
Improve Data and Be Transparent 92%
 

Highlights

Enhance Processes and Collaboration

Build a coalition to monitor and revise Colorado state laws and policies related to traffic safety including automated speed enforcement and distracted driving.

DOTI staff joined voices from several other cities in Colorado to testify in support of photo enforcement. According to data gathered by DPD, severe crashes have decreased at these locations where photo enforcement occurs. In 2019, police issued 139,017 photo enforcement citations for speeding and red light violations.

Photo red light technology has reduced crashes at intersections where the technology is deployed. For example, at the high-use intersection of 6th and Lincoln:

  • Total crashes have decreased 60%
  • Side impact crashes have decreased 70%
  • Injury crashes have decreased 80%

High traffic speeds increase the risk of a crash as well as risk of serious injury or death. The presence of photo radar vans significantly reduced excessive speeders. The presence of the van for five consecutive days results in a 21% reduction in excessive speeding (vehicles traveling 10+ MPH over the posted speed limit).

Build Safe Streets for Everyone
Create Safe Speeds

Implement safety treatments along the HIN and within CoC

  • Encourage safe speeds through implementation of engineering countermeasures and context-sensitive speed limits on 1 corridor/year
  •  Implement geometric intersection treatments with proven safety benefits. 2 intersections/ year
  • Install or upgrade pedestrian crossing treatments at 3 locations / year

Reduce Vehicle Speeds along the HIN

With a strong foundation of data from past plans and studies, DOTI staff in 2019 designed and implemented improvements on nine corridors to calm traffic and support safety for all modes, far exceeding the goal of one per year. This included a speed limit reduction of 5 miles per hour on five corridors, four of which are on the High Injury Network. These speed limit reductions mark a first for Denver Vision Zero, and are important given speed’s role both in the risk of a crash occurring as well as the severity of injuries that result from a crash.

Corridor enhancements also included the addition of a 24-hour transit-only lane on 15th and 17th Streets downtown, designated by red-colored “bus only” markings. These markings organize the roadway so that people who ride transit, bike, and drive have dedicated space along the corridor to travel safely and with greater predictability.

crews install 30 mile per hour speed limit signs and flags to alert drivers

 

15th Street downtown with red bus only striping in far right lanes

 

The City redesigned 19 intersections to increase safety, leveraging greater efficiencies in DOTI to again exceed the goal set in the action plan. This included the installation of several new curb extensions, which reduce the pedestrian crossing distance while slowing vehicle turning movements. This also included the installation of on-street bike corrals via “daylighting,” which not only provide parking for bicycles and reduce conflicts between people using the sidewalk and parking their bikes, but also improve safety by improving sight lines, often by removing on-street parking.

On the 15th Street bikeway, which was Denver’s first protected lane, installed in 2014, additional vertical separation was added to the entire stretch, and new “corner wedges” were added to five intersections along the corridor at locations where people in cars cross the bike lane to make left turns. These wedges not only let people in cars know that they must yield to people biking, but also slow left turning vehicles.

person locks up bike at an on street corral with the city of Denver logo

 

car turns around newly installed bollards and curbs at 15th Street intersection next to protected bike lane

 

Case Study: 20th Street and Interstate 25

According to crash data from 2013 to 2018, at the intersection of 20th Street and Interstate 25 near downtown Denver, there were 40 similar harmful crashes where single vehicles collided with a barrier. These resulted in two fatal crashes and four crashes with serious bodily injuries. At least 14 were related to DUI or DUID behaviors. When reviewing the demographic data, police also learned that 78% of those involved in the crashes were not Denver residents. The Vision Zero team took steps to address this hot spot with both engineering and enforcement.

The City & County of Denver coordinated with CDOT on reporting damage to the highway barrier and temporary repair. Police and DOTI then worked to identify improvements to signage and pavement markings to clarify travel movements for drivers in all directions, and Denver Police installed a variable message board and a driver feedback sign to warn drivers of the conditions. DPD followed up with directed DUI enforcement during late night and early morning hours.

diagram of improved signage at intersection turn 

In 2019, this intersection saw:

  • Zero fatal crashes
  • Zero SBI crashes
  • Zero crashes with harmful events or vehicles into a barrier

 

34 pedestrian crossings were upgraded. This includes 23 in-ground pedestrian crossing signs, which indicate that it is state law to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. This also includes Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs), which flash lights as a pedestrian is crossing the street and pedestrian hybrid beacons (or HAWK signals), which operate similarly to traffic lights, but are specifically used for mid-block pedestrian crossings.

 
 

Case Study: Federal Boulevard

The City and County of Denver conducted a Citywide Speed Limit Evaluation Study as part of Vision Zero, collecting and examining data in 37 corridors, mostly along the High Injury Network. The study included a comparison of speed limit change based on the conventional (85th percentile) approach, and the context-sensitive (50th percentile) approach. Denver used the study to inform infrastructure changes, such as updating 10 traffic signals on South Federal Boulevard with pedestrian indicators, leading pedestrian intervals and modifications to late-night signal timing.

Post improvement analysis in 2019 showed almost a 17 percent reduction in crashes, and zero fatalities recorded in 2018 and 2019, down from 8 in 2016 through 2017.

Traffic Signal improvements: In 2019, the City modified traffic signals at 62 intersections to improve safety. In addition to new signals and major signal rebuilds, this includes 19 new leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs). LPIs give pedestrians a head-start when entering an intersection before vehicles travelling in the same direction get a green signal. LPIs increase the visibility of pedestrians as they cross the street while reinforcing their right-of-way over turning vehicles. Other operational improvements include accessible pedestrian signals and protected left-turn only phases. 

Promote a Culture of Safety

The action plan is very clear: We’re all in this together.  The progress toward these goals would not be possible without the coordinated efforts of city departments, our partners in the community, and the people of the Denver metro area. Together, these groups brought Vision Zero to life across the city in 2019.


Strengthen traffic safety enforcement policies and practices

In 2019, DPD continued ongoing efforts that support traffic safety in Denver. This included conducting 10 plain clothes/pedestrian decoy operations, which resulted in 10,219 contacts made with drivers, and 368 drivers cited for failure to yield or stop for pedestrians. In addition, DPD made 1,844 DUI/DUID arrests in 2019, which reflects driving under the influence as an ongoing challenge in Denver.

In fall 2019, DPD announced the addition of nine officers to its traffic operations section, the majority of whom will focus on education and enforcement of traffic violations in areas where the data shows severe crashes are occurring. 

  • DPD’s Traffic team attended 13 pedestrian safety community outreach events, reaching a total of 2,367 participants, 50 percent of whom were in the target audience of 17 to 35 years old.
  • Distributed safety cards that provide information on the rules surrounding scooter usage.

Implement an inclusive communications campaign to heighten awareness and understanding of traffic safety among the public, public agency staff, and the media

Community Voice Public Service Announcements: Denver Vision Zero partnered with students at the University of Colorado Denver to create public service announcements (PSAs) that promote safe travel behavior and reflect the voices and ideas of our community members. These PSAs reach a new audience with critical safety messages. The videos include a parkour-inspired spot, a distracted driver warning, and an emotional testimonial from a mother who lost her 14-year-old son when he was struck by a driver under the influence of alcohol.


Develop branded Vision Zero signage to be installed with Vision Zero infrastructure projects during construction

Denver VIsion Zero signs were installed as city crews implemented new safety treatments at West Evans as part of the speed limit change and at 13th and Xenia as part of an intersection improvement.

 

street sign with Vision Zero logo 

 

Community Outreach

In 2019, our staff and partners participated in 90 events promoting Vision Zero and traffic safety in the community.

Vision Zero Community Program: Launched In 2018 by DDPHE, with WalkDenver and DOTI, the Vision Zero Community Program provides opportunities for neighborhood groups to design a project to increase Vision Zero awareness and promote safer streets.

In 2019, we selected seven projects, completed and hosted five events throughout Denver, and scheduled two final projects to be held in 2020. The projects used tactical urbanism to transform Denver streets into areas that enhanced safety for all roadway users. In addition to the tactical urbanism changes in the roadway, the project teams and communities performed data collection, talked with community members, and helped make Denver’s roadways safer for a few hours at the five locations. 

 

community members talk at Vision Zero tent during event

Tasty Colfax Traffic Safety Demonstration – At this annual event highlighting restaurants along East Colfax, the Vision Zero Coalition installed a temporary pedestrian crossing and other safety enhancements Using temporary materials to facilitate safe pedestrian crossings to help visitors enjoy the local culinary event.

 

cones and temporary barriers on street

Federal and W 50th Avenue Pop-Up - the Vision Zero Coalition created temporary enhancements such as a protected bike lane, curb extensions, and a median to slow automobile drivers and elevate the importance of traffic safety along this High Injury Network corridor.

 

Vision Zero World Day of Remembrance: On Sunday, November 17, United Nations’ World Day of Remembrance for victims of road traffic crashes and their families, DOTI, Denver Streets Partnership, City and County of Denver, and Denver City Council gathered with residents at a candlelight vigil in Civic Center Park to honor victims of traffic crashes in Denver. A temporary memorial of ghost bikes and cutouts of human figures was installed in the Voorhies Memorial for one week to honor victims of traffic crashes and their families. Denver Streets Partnership asked attendees to take a pledge to promote and support safer streets for all. Estimates are that media about this event reached over 5.5 million people.

Walk & Ride of Silence: On May 15, DOTI gathered with the Denver Vision Zero Coalition, community members, advocates, and politicians to commemorate the lives that have been lost to traffic crashes on our streets in Denver. About 100 people gathered to walk or bike a one-mile route in silence to Sunken Gardens Park, where signs commemorated the 88 people who had died in traffic crashes in Denver since January 2018.

signs and people on bikes in park at event 

 

Vision Zero pledge card, saying Yes to Safer Streets

 
Improve Data and Be Transparent

Improve crash data management processes

Fulfilling an important goal of the Action Plan, details on fatal and serious injury crashes are now available on the Denver Vision Zero Dashboard. To build the dashboard, city staff ensured that the digital crash reports currently generated by DPD were able to automatically update in the online Open Data Catalog, refreshing the data behind the user-friendly dashboard each weekday. 

What We're Learning

Every day almost 270,000 people commute to work in the City and County of Denver from the surrounding counties. 

Approximately 110,000 people who live in Denver leave the county to work.  


During 2019 DPD and DOTI continued to analyze traffic crash data. Looking at crashes from January 1, 2014 through November 2019, four key points were discovered:  

  • Findings showed that 50% of all traffic crashes in Denver involved non-Denver residents
  • The data also determined that the top two other Cities other than Denver for both people causing the crash or being crashed into include the city of Aurora and Lakewood.
  • Zip codes that include the highest number of people who caused the crash include:
    1. 80219
    2. 80239
    3. 80204
  • Zip codes that include the highest number of people who were crashed into include:
    1. 80219
    2. 80239
    3. 80205

Highlights of the city’s plans for 2020 include:

  • Completing upgrades to 15 intersections along East Colfax Avenue with low-cost, high-impact treatments to calm traffic and reduce conflicts between people driving and walking.
  • Targeted safety education and public awareness efforts around the city’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries on its streets.
  • Continuing performing sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols targeted on High Injury Network corridors.
  • Implementation of the Road Safety Audit Strategy which examines, estimates and reports on potential safety issues on existing roads and intersections and identifies opportunities for safety improvements for all road users.  More information on this strategy can be found on the Federal Highway Administration’s website.
  • Performing crash site analyses to determine what measures could be quickly/easily implemented to enhance safety.