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Denver Streets for People Summit: 2022 Summit Summary

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

Streets for People Means Creating Safe and Equitable Public Space

Thursday, June 9, 2022

On Thursday, June 9, 2022, the Denver Community Active Living Coalition (CALC) hosted the 2022 Denver Streets for People Summit in partnership with the Denver Streets Partnership (DSP) and Denver’s Department of Transportation & Infrastructure (DOTI). This year, the Summit was a free and locally hosted one-day conference centered on creating safer and more inviting streets and public spaces, especially around transit stops and stations.


Read insights from CALC and DSP team members on the events of the day ‒ 3 mobile tours and an evening Summit ‒ and check out the full-length recording of the evening’s conversation at the end of this post or on our CALC YouTube channel.

 

MOBILE TOURS



MONTBELLO TRANSIT TOUR

The Montbello Transit Tour, featuring the Montbello Connector microtransit service, was hosted by Denver CALC team members, Rey Sosa and Christian Steward, with support from Stephen Rijo, Senior City Planner and the main project leader for the Montbello Connector microtransit pilot.

A map of the Montbello Transit Tour route.
A map of the Montbello Transit Tour route. Rey was meticulous about the planning of this tour, and we owe a lot of the experience to his work in curating the tour's route.

This transit tour included a light rail ride, some walking, and DOTI’s very own Montbello Connector. This Connector is DOTI’s first transit service since becoming a transportation authority. This service serves the neighborhood of Montbello but is available to anyone traveling through the neighborhood and…IT IS FREE. Another important point of the Montbello Connector, it is an environmentally friendly service. It is literally decreasing the carbon footprint for the neighborhood and the globe.

The participants of the Montbello Transit Tour sitting together in the Montbello Connector vehicle.
Our driver, on the left in the picture, is a Montbello resident and was hired because of her familiarity with the neighborhood. She has a wealth of knowledge about the neighborhood she was employed to work for.

For some of our tour group this was their first venture into the neighborhood. We discussed the events and the built environments that make this neighborhood great and what connects the people to these places. The Montbello Branch Library and Montbello Central Park were important stops to highlight the cultural centers and popular destinations of the Montbello Connector. Montbello Central Park is home to a high school and an elementary school, and this has become an important destination for the Montbello Connector because local kids use the service to get back and forth from education centers.


SUN VALLEY BIKING & ROLLING TOUR

The Sun Valley Bike Tour was hosted by Jill Locantore and Tanniqua-Kay Buchanan from the Denver Streets Partnership in collaboration with a number of community partners.

The first stop was La Alma-Lincoln Park, where we met with David Pulsipher from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI). He spoke about the significance of the new 13th Avenue Protected Bike Lane and its connection to the larger bike network. The bike lane is a critical new connection between downtown and southwest Denver.


The second stop was the Latino Cultural Arts Center (LCAC) adjacent to the Colfax Viaduct. Alfredo Reyes, Executive Director of the LCAC described plans for a cultural campus spanning between three locations and the need for better pedestrian, bicycle, and transit connectivity between these locations. In addition, we spoke with Manuel Aragon and Glenn Harper from Sun Valley Kitchen + Community Center who described the community’s efforts to activate the space underneath the Colfax Viaduct (south of the Broncos Stadium) through international marketplaces, art, and placemaking, including a new mural by Julio Mendoza.

Participants stopped and gathered next to the Colfax Viaduct and around Alfredo who is speaking. The Broncos Stadium is in the distance.
Second stop of the Sun Valley Biking & Rolling Tour to learn about Latino Cultural Arts Center and then Sun Valley Kitchen + Community Center.

The third stop was at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) headquarters speaking with Dan Shah from the West Colfax Business Improvement District (BID). Dan spoke about the community vision for the redesign of the Colfax Cloverleaf and Viaduct to provide better multimodal connectivity in the area!


The final stop was at Sun Valley Kitchen + Community Center, where Jeanne Granville from the Westside Stadium Community Coalition spoke about the Community Benefits Agreement the community is working on in conjunction with the Stadium District Redevelopment.


DOWNTOWN DENVER WALKING & ROLLING TOUR

The Downtown Denver Walk/Roll was a great success! Nica Cave of Human Centric Design was joined by fellow advocates from Pedestrian Dignity to guide us through a very thoughtful tour of Downtown, from the Auraria Campus to the History Colorado Center. Our stops included the 16th St Mall, Civic Center and the Molly Brown House. We discussed how it felt to move through these spaces and learned from each other, answering questions to address each of our senses - how does it feel to be in this space? What do you hear?


We also learned about the historic Disabilities Rights Movement in Denver, which came to a pinnacle in 1978 when, in front of the Denver Public Library, men and women known as “The Gang of 19” threw themselves in front of buses to demand accessibility from RTD. One of their taglines was “To go boldly where everyone else has gone before” which clearly conveys the lack of accessibility and equity experienced in our public transit system.

Downtown Denver Walking & Rolling Tour participants headed towards the next tour stop.
Downtown Denver Walking & Rolling Tour participants headed towards the next tour stop.

We also discussed how historic infrastructure typically doesn't serve the disabled community. For instance, the flagstone sidewalks found in some of our more historic neighborhoods have inconsistent surfaces and are difficult to maintain. This brought up an important question - how do we start to affect change when history is no longer serving the community? Overall the tour was a fantastic way to connect with the local community of folks interested in urban mobility, everyone got to know each other and had a lot of fun moving together.


SUMMIT SESSION



KEYNOTE

To kick off an evening of dialogue at the Streets for People Summit, we held a virtual keynote presentation with guests Elena Madison, the Director of Projects at Project for Public Spaces, and Nancy Young, the Director of the OnRamps Program for Fountain House.


In 2021, on behalf of the nonprofit organizations they represent, Elena and Nancy partnered together and with additional community organizations to work on the first Recharge Station in Times Square, a kiosk and public space program to serve people in need who are experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and loneliness and create space for community building. Elena and Nancy brought this story of social design put into practice and shared their advice for creating places of social inclusion with our Denver audience.


Elena presented first, describing how past and current approaches to working with vulnerable populations in public space have been expensive, ineffective, and ultimately don’t leverage the public space itself, whereas creating social environments through public space design can create the intentional and spontaneous interactions that grow the trust and connections that vulnerable populations truly need. Developing these social environments requires ongoing management and maintenance to be successful, just like our physical public spaces do, and Elena described the effectiveness of pairing design with trust agents who are present and willing to build meaningful connections with the people they encounter.


Nancy then shared how the OnRamps Recharge Station in Times Square does this by bringing the intentional community and recovery programs of Fountain House out into the open. The Recharge Station creates a social environment specifically to attract, connect with, and address the needs of people experiencing homelessness, and it breaks down barriers to accessing support even further, by having the staff behind the counter be Fountain House community members themselves who can identify with the struggles of isolation or hurt that visitors may be experiencing.


In the end, our keynote speakers left us with the wisdom that working with a variety of partners is vital to creating creative, community-based solutions and public space design. As Nancy put it, “working with community partners who have different strengths and skills is really key to creating a solution, creating community, and … creating a feeling of belonging for everyone who is using a public space.”


Illustration capturing the themes of the keynote presentations and panelist discussion, depicting different responses in public space with the images on the far right showing greater socially inclusive environments.
Illustration by artist, Jamie Perkins, capturing the themes of the keynote presentation and panelist discussion, depicting different responses in public space with the images on the far right showing greater socially inclusive environments.

PANEL DISCUSSION

The Streets for People Summit panel featured moderator, Molly McKinley the Policy Director of Denver Streets Partnership, and local panelists Debra Johnson the General Manager and CEO of Regional Transportation District (RTD), Kayleigh Gates a Community Resource Outreach Administrator for Denver Public Library, Lisa Raville the Executive Director of Harm Reduction Action Center, and Carleigh M. Sailon the City and County of Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) Operations Manager.


The summit panelists were asked to participate because of each of their organizations’ unique intersections with public space. The broad topic of public space intersects with harm reduction, public transit, mental health services, and the services and space provided by the public library system directly, and so these panelists were brought together to discuss each of their unique perspectives and outlooks. Molly moderated the panel with sincerity and levity, creating respectful relief during a conversation that was often difficult in its importance.


The common thread connecting Debra, Kayleigh, Lisa and Carleigh’s work is community. In creating community, we create safety in public space. In accepting that your neighbors in your community might not look, act, or sound like you, we create more openness in spaces that should be for everyone. A major theme in the discussion was the panelists' encouragement to talk about hard things, bringing up uncomfortable topics at the dinner table with your family and friends to destigmatize mental health, drug use, and homelessness. Creating this openness allows for the community to be less siloed and for public spaces to be designed to serve people better.


The panelists also shared some lessons learned in their work, which include going out into the community to get to know those you serve to meet people where they are, diversifying your workforce to better represent who you are serving, and encouraging mindful design of spaces that typically house drug use or other activities, like restrooms.


Each panelist urged the summit attendees forward with one encouragement:


  • Debra: RTD is a group of people who are moving people. Treat your transit operators and maintenance people with kindness and compassion.

  • Kayleigh: Come check out why we have social workers at the library.

  • Lisa: Carry Narcan on you! Talk about drug use to reduce stigma, when you see inappropriately discarded syringes and caps - pick them up, doing so is of very low risk to your health. Support the advancement of Harm Reduction work (“harm reduction 2.0”).

  • Carleigh: STAR is trying to ensure folks get the proper response when they are in crisis, please continue to support these initiatives in Denver.

We also want to offer some of the resources that were sighted or alluded to during the Summit, including the following:

Affordable addiction/mental health resources:


REIMAGINED ROUNDTABLES

Although the full extent of the reimaged roundtable discussion exercise was cut short in favor of giving the panel discussion more time, the summit wrapped up with meaningful conversation based around one key question: How do public institutions and transit hubs play a role in facilitating equitable spaces for the diverse city population of Denver? Each table had time to discuss this question as a wrap up with the goal of starting to examine what they learned at the Summit and put it into action.


CAMP COLORADO: KID'S ROOM

While the adults of the summit were submerged in the amazing content of the keynote and panel speakers, our younger participants enjoyed activities in the Camp Colorado room of History Colorado Center. We started by creating our own obstacle courses and raced to see who could finish each one the fastest. Our speedsters were breaking their own records on each course! After eating some dinner (and the best cookies we’ve ever had), we focused on designing our own version of safe streets. We then discussed how to safely travel on each street by car, bike/scooter, and walking! As the summit was winding down, we sketched out our own bikes and played “pin the light on the bike”. We had a blast hanging out with these creative and fun youth!


The kids in the Camp Colorado room drawing out their own versions of safe streets and bikes on a poster.
The kids in the Camp Colorado room imagining their own versions of safe streets and bikes.
 
Thanks again to all of our attendees, speakers and panelists, tour facilitators, volunteers, and everyone involved in making this year’s Denver Streets for People Summit a success!

This event was made possible through funding from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment through the Cancer, Cardiovascular, and Pulmonary Disease (CCPD) grants program.

 

RESOURCES


Keynote and Panel Recording: https://youtu.be/asl5bnYBc7g



Sun Valley Biking & Rolling Tour photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkdenver/albums/72177720300224264



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