Larry from Denver writes, “What’s driving you crazy? Can anyone explain to me why there is a one-block school zone along University at Alameda? It's a very busy, wide street (three lanes). The signs are not obvious, there's not even side parking. There are never children walking there, and the sidewalks are far from the street. I'm all for school zones, but this one just seems to be a reason to set up a photo radar van to generate city revenue. How are these zones planned? Is there a place to find out what the rules are or if you can contest them?”
School zones in Denver are typically placed along all the streets surrounding a school. Obviously, they are a feature to ensure children are able to get to or from school safely whether it is by walking, riding a bike, by bus or driven by their parents. The lowered speed limit in the morning and in the afternoon is designed to ensure anyone can be around a school without fear of being hit by passing vehicles. School zone enforcement times usually happen during morning drop-off and afternoon pickup.
It might look like there is just a church on that northeast corner of University and Alameda but there is a school there as well. The school is Rock Solid Christian Academy (RSCA), which provides K-12 education.
“The Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure added a school zone at S. University Boulevard and Alameda Avenue as a required safety measure,” said Vanessa Lacayo, marketing and communication specialist for the City & County of Denver’s Department of Transportation & Infrastructure. “School zones are placed near all schools with 50 or more students. We will review the existing school signs as DOTI may make adjustments to the placement and/or number of signs to improve visibility and awareness for drivers.”
The 20 mph school zone along northbound University begins at the sign placed about 200 feet before Alameda Avenue. It is in effect between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. as well as 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. except on school holidays. The school zone ends at the sign just north of Cedar Avenue, when drivers can resume the 30 mph speed limit. The 20 mph school zone on the southbound side of University begins at the sign just after Cherry Creek Drive South and runs to the sign located about 200 feet after Alameda. There are also school zone speed limit reductions on Cedar Avenue along the north side of RSCA as well as along Alameda on the south side of the school.
RSCA Principal Kathi Curtis said she appreciates all of the school zones: “The safety of our students, faculty, and families is of course top priority.”
According to a recent survey of Colorado drivers by AAA, over half said they, like you, Larry, drive through a school zone on their daily commute. The problem is that these drivers concede to driving badly in school zones. Thirty-eight percent admitted to exceeding the speed limit and 30% admitted to using their cell phone while driving in an active school zone. Even worse, 20% admitted to driving around a school bus while its red lights are flashing and 22% admitted to cutting off a school bus because the driver was going too slow.
Regarding contesting or eliminating this school zone on University, I talked to Denver City Council Member Chris Hinds who said the challenge with his district is that many of the streets in district 10 are arterials for people who don’t live in district 10.
“While I have empathy for Larry, who wants to make sure he can get from point A to B, I also have a lot of empathy for the people who live in these neighborhoods and are trying to make sure their kids can get to school and get home alive," Hinds said. "We need to protect our kids. They are our future and children don’t necessarily have the wherewithal to know, depending on their age, that they should stay out of the road, so I think it is important in general for us to have school zones.”
Hinds said he hopes your assertion that the Denver photo radar van is being used there just to generate revenue isn’t true.
“In previous conversations with the police department I don’t believe that to be the case," he said. "But I’m happy to reach out to the police department to make sure they are doing that for safety and not for profit.”
Another viewer, Julie from Golden, wrote to me saying she received a photo radar ticket in this same school zone. Julie said she was going south on University and the radar van was parked on the west side sidewalk across from Cedar Avenue. Julie asked me if it is still necessary for Photo Radar Enforcement to post signage that is clearly visible to cars on the road.
The answer to that question is absolutely. According to the City of Denver’s Photo Radar Enforcement page, “A "Photo Radar In Use sign is required to be displayed 300 feet in advance of the van." Additionally, the page states, “a Photo Enforcement Agent is ALWAYS in the van during enforcement. RADAR equipment is certified annually, and the calibration is tested before and after each enforcement and enforcement at school zones is the priority.”
Speeding in a Denver school zone, when it is active, caries double the normal $40 fine plus a minimum additional fee of $29 if personal service is required.
Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on any podcast app including iTunes , Stitcher , Spotify and Podbean.