Denver, CO

'Hostile' rockpiles blocking Denver bicyclists' paths should be removed

David Heitz
Photo byBryan Wilson

The term “rockpile” is taking on a whole new meaning in Denver.

What used to refer to cheap seats at Coors Field now also references piles of rocks, literally. The mounds of boulders have been placed alongside sidewalks throughout the city. The idea behind the rocks, known as “hostile architecture” to some, is to discourage people from pitching tents.

Bryan Wilson, a bicycling enthusiast, recently tweeted a picture of the rocks blocking his path. In an email to NewsBreak, Department Of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson Nancy Kuhn reiterated that residents must remove rocks in a bicyclist’s right-of-way.

City can tell residents to move rocks

“If we receive a complaint about rocks/boulders in the right of way, we will send a DOTI inspector by to take a look and address any significant safety concerns,” the email said. “The inspector will primarily look at sight lines - so, they’re making sure things in the tree lawn area aren’t blocking views around corners or restricting a driver’s ability to see someone walking or biking by. They’re also looking to see if anything is blocking or limiting use of the sidewalk or street.”

Kuhn said, however, that city crews are not removing the rocks. “We are not removing rocks, but DOTI may ask property owners to pull back rocks that are blocking a sidewalk or presenting a safety issue.”

No punishment for rock layers

Sometimes the rocks are in the tree lawn area – that area between the curb and the sidewalk, Kuhn said. "So, if there are rocks in the tree lawn area spilling over onto the sidewalk, we ask people to pull those back off the sidewalk."

Wilson also tweeted out an email he received from the DOTI about the rocks. “The rocks are not allowed and should be removed,” DOTI wrote. “Please help us by identifying the adjacent properties so that our (right-of-way) inspectors can make contact with the owners and get the rocks removed (and) review the installation of the fencing to see if it is in conformance.”

Kuhn said there are only 16 right-of-way inspectors to oversee between 20,000 and 30,000 street occupancy permits per year. Nobody littering the right-of-way with rocks will be punished. "Given their caseloads, we have to make safety the priority when it comes to addressing rocks in the right of way."

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO

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