Why Stapleton residents fear their streets
Some lessons from the big Denver development where New Urbanism and conventional traffic engineering collide.
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To get things built, new urbanist designers often must compromise their design ideals. Frequently that means taking what we love about New Urbanism and trying to squeeze it through conventional traffic engineering standards and mindsets. The end product is typically a hybrid; it possesses some of the qualities that make New Urbanism desirable but is diluted by conventional demands such as swift automobile circulation.
Living for the last three years in Stapleton, the Denver area’s largest new urbanist development, I’ve been confronted by the discrepancy between the ideal, on the one hand, and the impure built reality, on the other. When it comes to New Urbanism, Stapleton looks the part with beautiful, tree-lined streets, great architecture, mixed uses, neighborhood schools, and an abundance of parks, greenways, sidewalks, and bike lanes.
However idyllic the transportation system appears to be, cars moving at very high speeds are not uncommon, and driving is more prevalent in Stapleton, a Denver Regional Council of Governments survey found, than in three of Denver’s older, more established neighborhoods—Cherry Creek, East Colfax, and the Highlands.
Handling the disconnect
I came to realize that if we look at Stapleton’s street designs, street network, and how people actually use the transportation system, we