Since running for city council, the single most consistent complaint I hear is: what is the city doing to make my street safer? People are afraid of drivers speeding down the same streets where kids are riding bikes. Families are forced to walk in the road due to lack of sidewalks. There aren’t safe places to cross busy streets.
My own neighborhood, like so many in Wheat Ridge, has inconsistent sidewalks. I have to choose between walking in the street or walking across strangers’ yards and gardens to avoid cars. It’s dangerous and unneighborly.
So what is the city doing now to improve neighborhood street safety? What else can they do? And what can residents and businesses do to make it safer and more enjoyable to walk in Wheat Ridge?
The cost of installing sidewalks throughout the city would be astronomical and there are many neighborhoods who, in order to maintain the rural feel, don’t want sidewalks. However, completing the sidewalks on our main corridors is not only attainable, it’s what the residents of Wheat Ridge have demanded through the Let’s Talk Program and the 44th Avenue Subarea Plan. In 2023, city council prioritized identifying funding to make our main corridors walkable so everyone can safely access transit, schools, parks, businesses and services.
Thanks to advocacy by the Wheat Ridge Active Transportation Advisory Team, the city received an $8 million grant for a sidewalk on the west side of Wadsworth between 32nd and 35th avenues. This will connect all the way to the Clear Creek Trail once Wadsworth reconstruction is done. The plan to improve safety for bikes and pedestrians on 35th Avenue east of Teller will be finalized this spring. At my request, $50,000 from the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP) this year is dedicated to improving safe routes to school, focused on new routes from the rearticulation this fall.
I’m working with city staff on a much-needed update to the NTMP. Currently, the NTMP relies on neighbors to organize and petition the city to address traffic safety issues. The city assesses the situation then proposes a solution (typically speed humps) and only moves forward once a supermajority of neighbors sign off on it (which frequently they don’t). The NTMP update will include more proactive investments as well as a wider variety of tools to improve safety such as bulbouts, crosswalks, and reducing the residential speed limit.
While the city is stepping up and making pedestrian safety a priority, it’s the responsibility of residents and businesses to shovel, to keep their landscaping trimmed, and to not obstruct access. And drivers… please go slow in our neighborhoods. Working together, we can make Wheat Ridge more walkable and safer.
Rachel Hultin is a Wheat Ridge District 2 City Councilor.