Before the pandemic took hold in Denver, cars were increasingly being targeted as a problem that needed to be solved.
An alternative-mobility conference in Denver featured #BanCars stickers. And activists increasingly admitted on the record that their real agenda was to make driving harder.
"If you're going to promote multimodal options, you've got to make single-occupancy cars more difficult," Curtis Edwards of Conservation Colorado told Westword, one of Denver's alternative weekly newspapers.
"We can't be spending any more dollars on anything that actually increases the amount of driving or the number of cars on our roads," Danny Katz, director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group and chairman of the Denver Streets Partnership, said in the same article.
Even as its population rose, Denver was reducing parking and road capacity; car lanes were being converted to dedicated lanes for buses and bicycles, creating traffic congestion by design.
Although the vast majority of Denver commuters drive cars, one downtown street was converted so that three lanes were reserved for bicycles and buses, leaving just two lanes for cars.
I'm an avid cyclist, logging thousands of miles a year, but most people can't just pedal their way to work at the construction site or to drop off the kids at school.
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic also has exposed the risk of an overdependence on mass transit built on the idea of putting lots of people in small, enclosed spaces. Bus and train ridership in the Denver area's Regional Transportation District has dropped precipitously — it's down by 70 percent since March.
Other major metro regions in the nation also are seeing significant declines. New Jersey Transit Corp. last month reported a 95 percent decline in ridership because of the pandemic. Chicago's Metra and San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit saw one-day ridership declines that peaked at 97 percent, according to data compiled by StreetsBlog USA.
Ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber are struggling mightily, and some car-sharing services have either been shut down, such as General Motors' Maven, or have pulled up stakes in North America, such as Share Now.
Even before the pandemic, our survey of 300 Denver voters in late January and early February showed that more than two-thirds of Denver residents who worked outside the home relied on a personal vehicle to get to and from work. A majority depended on vehicles to commute regardless of age, income, party affiliation or race.
Only 3 percent of Denver commuters said they preferred to bicycle and just 4 percent walked to work.