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Denver's default speed limit could decrease to 20 mph to help avoid pedestrian crashes

The ordinance would change the default speed limit in Denver from 25 mph to 20 mph on hundreds of smaller streets.

DENVER — Traffic in Denver could soon see a slowdown on hundreds of streets all at once.

The people advocating for this hope drivers will forgive the inconvenience that might keep more of our neighbors alive.

"I usually don’t go throughout the week without having a close call," said Jamie Lewis with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. "People are so distracted today with cell phones and other things in their car."

Lewis knows the dangers of traveling down the street in his wheelchair. He faces them every day. He wears bright clothes so people will see him as he thinks about all the recent pedestrian deaths and close calls while he waits to cross the street.

"It heightens my safety conscience," said Lewis. "When I get to an intersection I make sure I get eye contact with the drivers because I never know what they’re going to do."

Denver reports more than 14 pedestrians have been killed in 2021 so far, and 59 have been injured. A total of 19 pedestrians were killed and 64 were injured in all of 2020. There have been 66 total fatalities on Denver's roads this year compared to 57 in 2020.

Lewis hopes a small change he’s fought for could soon make a big impact in Denver.

"Unfortunately people usually don’t pay attention until it happens to a family member or somebody close to them," said Lewis. "All of a sudden it becomes relevant."

Denver City Council is expected to soon vote on an ordinance that would lower the default speed limit on all streets in the city from 25 mph to 20 mph. That would impact all the smaller neighborhood streets where there’s no speed limit sign posted and the default limit is 25 mph.

Denver City Councilman Paul Kashmann says he plans to introduce the ordinance in the next couple weeks. He told 9NEWS he believes he has the votes to pass it when it goes to City Council. 

Advocates for the change say just lowering that speed limit five miles per hour greatly increases pedestrian’s chances for survival if they get hit by a car.

Jill Locantore with the Denver Streets Partnership has been fighting to lower the speed limit since 2019. As pedestrian deaths trend upward after the pandemic, she says change may finally be coming.

"City Council could change it very quickly through simple legislation," said Locantore. "Speed is one of the biggest factors to whether a crash happens in the first place and the severity of the crash."

The ordinance wouldn’t impact the larger city streets. Still, it's a five mile an hour difference that they say could save lives.

"If a car and a pedestrian are in an accident the car is always going to win," said Lewis.

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