Apr 26, 2021 - News

Denver looks to tech to make its streets safer to stroll

A photo of a ghost bike

A ghost bike in Denver honoring a cyclist killed at the intersection of West Bayaud Avenue and South Tejon Street. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver is leveraging smart technology to improve safety for bikers and pedestrians.

Why it matters: The investment in tech could position the city as a national leader in safety innovation and move it closer to achieving the goal of ending all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.

  • Ten pedestrians were killed in Denver last year, city data shows, and at least one pedestrian has died in a crash this year.

Driving the news: Denver will become the first U.S. city to launch a study using "smart" bike light technology to improve cyclist safety, the Downtown Denver Partnership announced last week.

  • The study will be conducted by See.Sense, a U.K.-based cycling tech company whose bike lights have sensors that can detect behavior like severe braking and swerving, helping identify where Denver cyclists experience challenges such as rough pavement or close calls with drivers.
  • The data will be gathered over a year from 300 volunteers, and findings will help officials improve "safety, connectivity and equity," according to the downtown business advocacy group.

What they’re saying: "There's truth to the saying, 'what gets measured gets done,'" said Jill Locantore, head of Denver Streets Partnership, a coalition of community groups advocating for people-friendly streets.

  • "They've also made a concerted effort to recruit a diversity of people who bike, which will help inform the design of bike [systems] that are safe and comfortable for all kinds of people," she told Axios.

What else: Denver’s transportation department is deploying artificial intelligence to improve street safety, particularly for pedestrians using crosswalks.

  • New technology is being tested at certain high-trafficked crosswalks that can detect pedestrians and keep a red light from turning green until they finish crossing.
  • Eventually, city engineers hope the signals could also send a message to vehicles to alert drivers, Denverite reports.

Baseline data is currently being collected from four intersections: Green Valley Ranch Boulevard and Walden Street; 29th Street and Galena Street; Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Galena Street; and Morrison Road and Raleigh Street.

  • 17 other locations are under consideration, an agency spokesperson tells Axios.
Proposed passive ped detection locations
Data: City of Denver; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The big picture: City planners across the country are working on ways to make crosswalks safer, as they become a growing site of preventable deaths — often with distracted driving to blame, writes Axios’ Jennifer Kingston.


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