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Home » Archives » June 2012 » Denver: the Good, the Bad, and the Hopeful

06/07/2012: "Denver: the Good, the Bad, and the Hopeful"
We recently rode Amtrak's Southwest Chief to Denver on the first leg of a trip that would also take us to San Francisco on the California Zephyr, whence home by the Coast Starlight. It was our first time in Denver, and though our stay was short we managed to click the shutter a few times, both in Denver itself and in its southern suburbs.

Denver seems to be at a cusp of genuine urbanization right now. It is still a sprawling suburban mess for much of its extent, its population enslaved to the automobile, the streets of the outer districts largely empty of people walking, and often empty altogether except at rush hour. Suburban towns, or at least some of them, mandate vast setbacks occupied by lawns that are no more than a green blur to drivers whizzing by, and long vistas of asphalt are the rule, not the exception.

Yet the suburbanites are learning to love the RTD's light rail system and the pleasure of zipping past the traffic jams on I-25 on their way to dinner in town or a game at the three stadiums. And in Denver itself, a true and lively urban lifestyle is developing, with a growing bicycle culture, plenty of infill development spreading out from the center, a pedestrian street with a free electric shuttle feeding it, and plenty of street life. People walking, riding bicycles, hopping on and off trains and buses, and generally filling the sidewalks, shops, bars, and restaurants with convivial gladness and ringing registers.

Here, then, is a little snippet of Denver, Colorado, in late spring of 2012:

Denver skyline, seen from distant Greenwood, a sprawling suburb

An empty street in an automobile-dependent suburb--not far from the light rail station

I-25 seen from the pedestrian bridge linking the Orchard light rail station to an office park

Parking structure for a small mall nestled under Greenwood condos near an office park

The light rail system is well-liked, and on game nights can be packed solid

Condos along Cherry Creek, near Union Station

A new development going up at the crossing of two bike routes

Denver has been genuinely supportive of bicycling, and the populace has responded--bikeways, bike parking, B-Cycle bikeshare stations, and people riding bikes are everywhere in the central city

A delightful little beach where Cherry Creek empties into the Platte

A pedestrian street runs through much of downtown, and features, among other things, public pianos

Denver, it seems, is getting a grip on the future!