Virtual Conversations at Streets for People Summit
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
The 2020 Denver Streets for People Summit has come and gone, but the lessons, insight, and inspiration (not to mention the video replays), are here to stay! Read below for insights on each session from our Coalition members. For more, you can check out the full-length recordings of our sessions and brush up on your knowledge of what’s happening on Denver’s streets and beyond by going to our YouTube channel.
Westwood Via Verde Walking Tour
Our first walking tour explored the Westwood neighborhood in Southwest Denver and its vibrant murals, culture, and local businesses. The walk was a very abbreviated version of the Westwood Via Verde, a three-mile neighborhood greenway project to help the community achieve health, equity, and climate outcomes. Follow along with this walk on your own with our self-guided story map entitled, “Westwood Art.”
We started our route at Cuatro Vientos Park, Westwood’s newest park in 30 years. When you visit this park in person, be sure to check out the views from every corner — a beautiful sight even on this smokey day. This park will also receive an intersection mural in spring 2021! Once we get closer to Morrison Road, we are greeted with beautiful murals and the clang of local repair shop businesses at work. “Si se puede” (“Yes, it can be done”) marks a wall with a mural of Cesar Chavez, and next door, a wall exclaims “¡Participe!” (“Participate!”) alongside children raising their hands. Take a walk for yourself down Morrison Road to truly enjoy all the beautiful artwork and visit the local businesses.
One last stop for a stroll through the Re:Vision Co-op gardens, perusing the rows of colorful corn stalks taller than our heads, alongside fruitful tomatillos, towering sunflowers, and more. We even see a mural painting in action by local artist Santiago Jaramillo of D3 Creative Arts, along the backside of the Rise Collective building. The sugar skull mural of Cultura Chocolate greeted us and left us all craving a melt-in-your-mouth treat, making plans to come back with friends or family as we walked back toward Cuatro Vientos Park to wrap up our trip.
See the self-guided StoryMap with photos.
Shared Studios Global Conversation: The Future of Urban Mobility
In the first global session on the Future of Urban Mobility, “flexibility” sounded like the key to moving forward after our cities have experienced such a dramatic change in the ways we move around them.
In Sweden, where public transportation is being dissuaded, they have seen an increase in forms of transportation that are not public—an uptick in personal transportation, such as biking. The same has been seen in Denver. What do these cities expect to happen in the winter when several inches of snow can cover the ground and only the hardest core will be taking their bikes out? Flexibility, from allowing more people to work from home or integrating the appropriate infrastructure to help clear the streets and ensure people on bikes can still get where they want to go.
On the flip side, in this time of uncertainty, there has also been an increase in the purchasing of single occupancy vehicles. The panelists discussed the importance of capitalizing on this moment and getting people to try new things and disrupt the way they may easily move around in a car. It’s important that options stay available and we stay flexible. Things like working from home and mode-share goals must persist, to discourage bad habits from forming during this unique time.
Finally, during this time of change, we’ve seen many temporary treatments, like streets closed to vehicles and open only to pedestrians. These “experiments” have been widely successful, and the community has asked for these experiments to become permanent. But as we learned throughout the discussion, flexibility is the key. Perhaps we should stop thinking about our roadways as being anything permanent, perhaps weekend dining in the streets, occasional bike lanes and pedestrian zones can always, temporarily, exist. We just need to be flexible.
Community Transportation Networks Trivia
Since a goal of the Summit is always to get people talking and connecting, and we know webinar formats aren’t the best at this, our team was tasked with planning some interactive networking activities that could be adapted to a virtual format.
The first of these was a Team Trivia hour, hosted via some handy online tools: Zoom and PollEverywhere. To make this session educational about transportation in Denver, we themed all the trivia questions around the current “Community Transportation Networks” projects that are bringing 125 miles of bikeways to Denver. (http://bit.ly/denvermovesnetworks)
But don’t worry, this was no average public meeting. With just a brief recap of the projects, we separated into teams and answered trivia. Many of the questions were easy, such as “What does CTN stand for?” and “What areas are CTN being implemented?” (the answer was shared on a previous screen!). But some questions required a bit more math or history knowledge. Here are a few of the funnest facts we found while putting together this trivia:
Denver’s first bus-only lanes were installed in 1975 on Broadway & Lincoln
Denver’s first bike plan was created in 1979 (and has of course been updated many times since)
Opening Panel: The Future of Transit in a Post-COVID World
The 2020 Streets for People Summit opened with a fascinating storytelling session focused on transit. Titled, “The Future of Transit in a Post COVID World”, this panel discussion was preceded by a keynote address from Cam Hardy, President and Co-Founder of the Better Bus Coalition.
A heartfelt and informative share on his personal journey of riding the bus as a youth and the impetus for forming the coalition, Cam Hardy's keynote presentation was full of ideas, inspiration, and calls to action. Here are some of our favorite quotes:
"The bus should be for everyone, not just those that have to use it."
Cam's love for transit began in elementary school - he rode the bus to school every day, building lifelong friendships with drivers and fellow riders alike. As an adult, he began to see the "dark cloud" surrounding the image of bus riders. This disconnect was part of his inspiration to start the Better Bus Coalition, aiming to improve the bus system and destigmatize the image of bus riders.
"If we're going to invest in local communities, transit is low-hanging fruit!"
Discussions of transit and equity go hand in hand and as places like Cincinnati and Denver experience growth, it’s important to consider the people who have lived here for years. Cam stressed how quality and reliable bus service is a critical investments in local communities, many of which have been taken advantage of or overlooked. We couldn't agree more.
"Moving the needle requires getting involved. You don't have to be an activist - you don't have to be a professional. If you're just outraged about something, that's a start."
Cam didn't intend to become a bus advocate but his experiences as a rider made him acutely aware of the need for change. He created the Cincinnati Better Bus Coalition from nothing more than his own passion, working as a one-man team for years. In Denver, we're here to make it easier for folks like Cam to gain traction. We can all agree that public transportation, safe streets, and healthy communities are worth the investment; it just takes getting "outraged" -- and then getting involved!
The keynote then transitioned into a broader panel discussion moderated by Eulois Cleckley, Executive Director of DOTI, and the other panelists joining Cam included Shontel Lewis, RTD Board Director, District B; Gaylon Johnson, a local bus driver; Aria Spears, a youth transit rider; as well as Ryan Billings of Denver DOTI.
It was beautiful to witness the unfolding of the various stories and feelings surrounding transit and to hear the panelists’ thoughts on what the future holds, as well as their observations of the present. There are so many personal relationships to transit that extend past the simple (yet important) necessary component of it, that it will be essential to keep this person-centered perspective in mind as we allow the unfolding of transit’s destiny to positively affect us all.
Sanderson Gulch Walking Tour
This walk is truly a treat, but don't take our word for it. One of our limited, in-person attendees at the Sanderson Gulch reported back the following:
I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and history I learned recently while on a walk along Sanderson Gulch as part of the Streets for People Summit in September. I had never heard of or been to Sanderson Gulch, though I have lived in Denver since the 1970’s. The guided tour provided background about Arthur “Tex” Harvey and how the area developed.
Because the gulch is along a small stream and not well taken care of, Denver Parks and Recreation has recently redeveloped the area not only for better drainage, but also created a wonderful urban trail. I was surprised at how beautiful the new trail is; it feels like one is walking in the foothills, not in the middle of a large urban city. One of the great features of the trail is the way it connects both sides of the gulch so neighbors on both sides can easily cross from one side to the other.
I plan to return to the 4.8 mile trail that ends at Ruby Hill Park and the Platte River to enjoy its quiet and beauty.
Shared Studios Global Conversation: Creating Inspiring Public Spaces
The availability (and lack of) public spaces in a city says a lot about a city’s identity and soul. Public spaces in cities say a lot about the values of the predominant culture in the city. As lockdowns begin to ease up in the wake of the worst pandemic in recent memory, city residents are beginning to see these often-forgotten spaces in new light.
In this panel, four panelists discuss how our public spaces are being re-imagined for a new reality and future. One example from our own backyard is Denver’s Civic Center Park. Panelists discussed the old status quo of the park as a place that was used for major events, but less so on a daily basis, and the need to find ways to reintegrate it into our new routines. The panelists go into detail about the commonalities around the world that make public spaces used and loved, and what is currently missing in them as we begin to slowly reopen.
In order for cities to get more residents engaging with these spaces while still adhering to social distancing, it becomes important for cities to take an active role in designing and injecting life through programming to maintain these spaces. The panelists also discussed using these spaces as a source of pride and joy for residents, especially during these times.
Ultimately, as people look to get out of the house but still adhere to social distancing rules, the panelists ask us, the public, to put pressure on our elected leaders to reimagine oft-disused public spaces for a new reality and reclaim these spaces for us.
Complete Streets Pictionary Networking
“Streets make up a substantial portion of Denver’s publicly owned land. How we design our streets reflects how we want to live.” (Complete Streets Design Guidelines)
Complete Streets Pictionary was a fun and educational moment of the summit. Pictionary was a great way to keep our participants engaged and see a piece of everyone’s creative side, all while learning more Complete Streets terms and their functions.
During the session we invited David Pulsipher from the Denver Department of Transportation & Infrastructure (DOTI) to talk about the design guidelines, and the importance of knowing and understanding the guidelines. We hosted this session using Microsoft Teams and Skribbl.io. We encouraged everyone to stay unmuted and have their cameras on to keep the engagement going as we played. Complete Streets Pictionary was successful as we had little technology issues arise and everyone was able to play in the same game. Some of the terms we used for the game were:
· Bike Lane
· Parking meter
· Loading zone
· Stop Sign
· Protected bike lane
· Green Infrastructure
View the Complete Streets Design Guidelines here to see more terms and how the City of Denver is working to improve our streets.
Bike Storytelling Session
We love bikes for many reasons, but what gives us such a strong connection to them is the stories, feelings, and experiences around them. CALC's Phuong Tran shared her reflection on this session below:
Growing up, I knew riding a bike was the best way to get in shape, enjoy the outdoors, and it’s fun, although it can be a little scary. But for some people, riding a bike is their only mode of transportation. That’s how many people get to work, to school, to the grocery store, or to their family/friend’s house.
A bike can tell someone's story and help connect us to each other and our environment. During this bike storytelling session, I felt connected to the speakers and relived my own first bike story. It was the scariest experience and I was terrified on a bike at a young age. This session showcased various perspectives of four Denverites and their bike stories. Here are my favorite parts of this session. Kayla, Ellen, Michael and Emily shared with us how they get around in the city and how biking has changed their lives.
Kayla Gilbert, CALC Program Manager at Denver Department of Transportation & Infrastructure (DOTI), shared a bike story from when she was a little kid. She remembers clearly when she was still learning how to ride a bike that she crashed hard into somebody. She had her first adult bike in her 20s and experienced some issues with it. Later, she bought a bike that she was more comfortable with. Kayla mentioned the importance of remembering that everyone is different and that we are not one size fits all. Her bike journey was relatable and she reminded us that becoming a bike commuter does not happen overnight. Now, she enjoys biking and addresses how important it is to make biking easier for more people. It was powerful to hear Kayla’s story as it was inspiring and engaging.
Ellen Forthofer is an Associate City Planner with the City and County of Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), and she took us on her bike journey back to the midwest, in Indianapolis. She shared with us that her hometown, Indianapolis, has a cultural trail which is a multi-use trail separated from the roadway for cycles to go both ways. She later interned at the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and shared how it transformed her to become more comfortable getting on a bike and inspired her passion for biking.
Michael Tipton works at Claydean Electric, and his bike journey started when he got his first bike at the age of 12 and it got stolen shortly after. Biking was his main mode of transportation growing up and he used his bike to go around town. He learned a lot from biking and has been involved in many organizations and programs that advocate for biking. Biking made him explore different parts of Denver and he is still biking today. He said biking is like flying and it is a part of his life.
Emily Kleinfelter, City Planner & Community Advocate, started her bike journey because of her dad. She is now focused on transportation planning because this makes her happy. She also talks about her passion, which is equity within transportation, and especially representation. Recently she has been working with a coalition of both cyclists and cycling groups in Denver to organize Denver solidarity rides and is using the bicycle as a vehicle of protest to call attention to systemic racism. She is proud to be in Denver and helping to make Denver a better city for biking and walking.
This session was inspiring and made me happy, emotional and hopeful. The speakers beautifully shared their stories and I was able to go along on their bike journey.
Shared Studios Global Conversation: Re-Imagining Movement
On the third day of the summit, we wrapped up the Shared Studios conversations with a talk centered on re-imagining movement. This brought in speakers from Bolivia, Sweden, Germany, as well as Tempe, Arizona, and was moderated by Dr. Brandon Ferderer, Director of Global Community and Curator Development for Shared Studios, and Michelle Roche, Founder of Roche Brand Advisors and Streets for People Citizen Advocate.
From this participant’s perspective, there were three main themes that presented themselves over and over as the conversation unfolded. They kept popping up in response to various questions ranging from the present COVID-19 situation, to climate change, and just generally as a sentiment that was present in the hearts and minds of the panelists.
These three main themes were creativity, experimentation, and innovation. The finer threads that wove this discussion included topics such as how technology can (and possibly should) be used as a gateway to further advancement in movement within the built environment, how we are in a necessary moment of shifting our paradigm from a product-focused culture to a people-focused one, and the need to remain flexible and continuously be trying new things in our efforts forward.
As one panelist put it, “This is a time for creativity, and opportunities abound.” The other panelists couldn’t agree more, and closing out the session, they rounded up their general thoughts and feelings about the subject by expressing the importance of concentrating more on solutions rather than problems, and finding common ground in this journey to safe, healthy, and happy communities.
Networking: All Ice-Breakers
The All Icebreakers networking session was a great midday break full of fun activities to take you back to your virtual world. We did a total of 7 quick games and icebreakers.
We started by introducing a meeting/summit bingo, where each participant could open up their very own game board and check off phrases they heard during the session or in the final day of the summit with things such as: sound of someone typing, loud, echo/feedback, child or animal noises, etc.
Link to the game: mfbc.us/m/u7n829
This was followed by a virtual scavenger hunt. In doing a scavenger hunt, it helps you get up and active as you are finding certain items within a short amount of time. For this, you can get as creative as you want with the list of items. For example, you can do a rainbow hunt, finding items that match each color of the rainbow, giving each player 10- 20 seconds to find each item.
Say What?: This icebreaker is a simple one. How it works is someone will share something cool they have done or enjoy doing. If you have done or enjoy the same thing, keep your video on. If the comment does not apply to you, you then briefly turn your video off so you can see what everyone chooses. An example of this is, “ I enjoy taking the light rail.” If you do, keep your camera on, if not, turn it off.
Rock, Paper, Scissors: This is a fun game to play at any time, why not bring it to the virtual world?!? To play, pick two players to start, then have the other participant pin their screens and play best out of three. Play till you get down to the final two and do a Rock, Paper, Scissors showdown, crowning the champion.
This or That: This icebreaker is a good way to start any meeting. You have two-three options for the participant to choose from. Then you go around and hear what everyone would prefer. Some examples are: morning or afternoon, evening or night, mountains or beach, and singing or dancing.
Meme story: For this one, everyone gets to make their own meme from the create option in Microsoft chat during a meeting. In the chat, go to the sticker option and press “Meme”, and watch as everyone creates their own funny meme to go with the picture selected. Then share to see everyone's masterpiece.
Lastly, Family portrait: Another way to have fun during a virtual meeting is to take a screenshot of everyone on a video chat. To spice things up, take a different one each time — make funny faces, bring in your pets, do a crazy gesture, you name it.
5280 Trail Bike Tour
Prioritizing people, health, culture, and nature, the 5280 Trail is a new, distinctly Denver amenity, that connects many vibrant and diverse city-center neighborhoods through the great urban outdoors. This effort builds on the visionary ideas and goals identified in numerous city and neighborhood plans to reimagine and repurpose our shared public spaces, linking neighborhoods and connecting people.
On a beautiful Friday evening during the Summit, Andrew Iltis of the Downtown Denver Partnership hopped on his bike, turned on his camera, and took viewers on a virtual tour of the trail. Riding along the proposed trail route, Andrew highlighted the many Denver landmarks that would be linked by the trail and answered questions about the project.
To learn more about the vision for the 5280, visit the Downtown Denver Partnership website.
Montbello FreshLo Bike Tour
What do you think of when you hear, “walkable loop”? A circle you can go around on, such as a park? An area of land that you can move through, creating a giant circle? Well you would be right in any way you look at it.
In the Montbello community, under the FreshLo Initiative, they focus on four elements, with one being the walkable loop. This is where community members and visitors can easily and safely get from community gardens and parks, school gardens, and the Cultural Hub, with improved sidewalks, and street crossings, and bike lanes ultimately forming a “healthy living loop”.
During this ride Mayra Gonzales, with the Montbello Organizing Committee, and CALC’s Christian Steward, showed us some of the stops along the walkable loop, and the views of the Montbello area. During this ride you're able to see why Christian feels, “Biking and walking is the wave of the future”, when it comes to mobility and transportation. To highlight the stops:
14:53 they arrive at the future location of the Montbello FreshLo Hub
22:34 the Academy 360 intergenerational community playground
36:55 talk about the pop-up speed demonstration Walk Denver did that took place last year
1:11:00 the Marie L. Greenwood Academy community garden
Keep up with Montbello FreshLo:
Facebook: Montbello FreshLo, Montbello Organizing Committee
Denver Walk/Bike Loops: Where are they now?
Did you know there are at least four (yes, four!) Denver groups planning walking and biking loops in their communities? After meeting at last year’s Streets for People Summit, the project leaders decided to meet regularly so they could share ideas, updates, and inspiration. “We all came together and discovered that we were working kind of in silos,” says Mayra Gonzales of the Montbello Freshlo project. “We each were working on different loops in different parts of the city, we didn’t really know each other. I think that moment was really something that launched us ahead because I was able to make really great connections with the folks around the table. Since then we’ve been able to get together to find out what everybody’s doing.”
While each of the projects are in different stages of development, all of the panelists stressed the importance of community involvement. Local knowledge was valuable in selecting the routes, names, and branding of the loops. In 2019, this meant several public meetings and events where community members could help shape the projects. In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented in-person gatherings from taking place, but the panelists agreed that it’s important to keep the conversations about these projects going. “This is the stage where the vision is there and now it’s upon each of the neighborhoods to make it special,” says Adam Perkins of the Downtown Denver Partnership. “Keep talking about all of these loops and what we want our streets to be in our city. I think the more we talk about it, the more we show people how these loops can connect people and places together, people will get why this is so important for our city.”
Fast & Curious: Transit & The Past/Present/Future of Denver Streets
The 3rd Annual Denver Streets for People Summit went out with excitement and inspiration, thanks to three fast-paced presentations from passionate Denverites and high-energy facilitation from local reporter Justin Adams.
Each presenter shared historical knowledge, personal stories, and intriguing possibilities for the future of Denver streets, all packed into twenty slides that automatically advanced every twenty seconds. They were fast, and we were curious.
Ryan Keeney kicked off the closing session with a discussion of Denver’s streetcar legacy and its role in neighborhood walkability. Who knew that the remnants of Denver’s original transit system still inform neighborhood design and feel today? Evan Derby picked it up from there, sharing his experience using the modern public transportation in Denver and encouraging listeners to consider the way that public services are routinely underfunded. This often results in some services — like transit — fulfilling roles outside its purpose — like doubling as housing for some Denverites. Spencer McCullough summed everything up nicely, demonstrating the many benefits of Denver’s shared streets, decrying cars’ dominance on our streets, and inspiring us to consider the best usage of our streets.
What if our streets could be used to fight the climate crisis, bring us closer to our neighbors, and maybe even help us find love? With a little imagination and the continued advocacy of people like Ryan, Evan, and Spencer, they certainly can.
Thanks again to all of our attendees, expert speakers, facilitators, and everyone involved in making this year's Virtual Streets for People Summit a success!