Denver, CO

Denver lowers residential streets speed limit to 20

David Heitz

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Denver's City Council voted Monday to lower the speed limit on residential streets from 25 to 20 mph.Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.)

Lead-footed motorists of Denver, consider yourself warned: The City Council has lowered the speed limit on residential streets to 20 mph.

The council lowered the speed limit from 25. It marked the first of many traffic-calming measures the council plans to slow down a speeding city.

It's no secret that Denver's roads sometimes feel like raceways. Many of Denver's roadways are wide, tempting motorists to drive fast.

"Drivers will go the speeds the streets will allow them," Councilmember Kevin Flynn said. Complaints about speeding top calls to his office, he added.

Flynn said he doesn't think the bill will be highly effective at slowing people down, "but it sets the tone."

Speed bumps and more

Several council members recommend re-engineering the city's streets so people can't drive as fast. They said speed bumps and other traffic calming measures, such as curves, are needed.

Councilmember Kendra Black voted against lowering the speed limit. She said the Department of Transportation Infrastructure would make the council spend $1.5 million to change all the signs. She wants the money spent to slow traffic where it's needed the most. According to DOTI, that's arterial, not residential, streets.

Denver is spending the money to slow traffic from its Vision Zero Fund to end traffic fatalities in the city.

Since the mayor launched the initiative several years ago, traffic deaths have increased to their highest annual peak of 82 in 2021. That's up from 57 fatalities in 2020.

Ending traffic deaths

The Vision Zero plan aims to eliminate traffic deaths by 2030. "Vision Zero recognizes that humans make mistakes, and therefore the transportation system should be designed to minimize the consequences of those errors," according to its website. "It focuses on five key goals: Process and collaboration, safe streets, safe speeds culture of safety and data and transparency."

According to DOTI, local streets only account for 10 percent of traffic accidents in the city. Flynn obtained detailed data from DOTI and found that speed was not even a factor in the traffic deaths in his district.

In one death, a woman forgot to set the parking brake, got out of the car, and it rolled over her.

In another, a man died when the vehicle he was fixing from underneath unexpectedly started and ran over him.

Councilmember Paul Kashmann, who sponsored the bill, stared into the cameras as he spoke. "What we're doing isn't working," he said. "Denver drivers need to take a deep breath, leave earlier and slow down. We need to slow down."

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

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