Denver can certainly lay claim to some unique and yes, sometimes, wacky transportation features. I’ll share some of them in this categorized article. You should know that most of these will be in current or future Wacky Denver listings.
Many folks may not know that Henry Barnes started some traffic innovations right here in Denver. The first is known as the “Barnes Dance”. It’s when at an intersection all traffic lights turn red and pedestrians are given the opportunity to cross at any angle, or even do a little dance if they like.
Barnes also synchronized traffic lights so that if you’re driving at an optimal speed, and traffic allows, you can go through a long string of green signals. If traffic conditions are right, you can still experience this on Speer Boulevard, Broadway, and some other numbered streets downtown.
A less welcome traffic-stopping device was born here in Denver: the locally-named “Denver Boot” that immobilizes vehicles whose owners too many traffic tickets. If you enjoy looking at old cars, there are a multitude of car shows and meetups, along with a good collection at the Forney Transportation museum.
Wacky facts: the interchange of I-25 and I-70 is known by locals as “The Mousetrap”. Colfax Avenue, where you can still see some funky old motels, was once known as “the longest, wickedest street in America”.
For a landlocked state and city, Denver has many opportunities to go boating. You can kayak on the Platte, row a dragon boat or water ski on Sloan’s lake, pedal a paddleboat at many city lakes, tube on Clear Creek or sail on a reservoir. There’s a model yacht club in Louisville. Finally, there are some pretty unique looking boats with legs at the Oak Station on the RTD W Line.
I know you’re going to think of the Denver International airport first with it’s underground legends, unusual art installations(e.g. Blucifer) and funky looking hotel. But there are other arial oddities in Denver. In Stapleton, where the airport once was, the control tower remains and will open soon as a restaurant/bar/social space. Just little south of there is the Wings Over the Rockies museum where you’ll find among actual aircraft the fictional X-wing fighter from Star Wars. If all that isn’t quirky enough for you, we have a TV personality named Amelia Earhart. Yes, that is her real name and she really flies planes.
We love rhymes in Denver as illustrated by the “A Train” also known at “the train to the plane”. The refurbished hub for trains in Denver is Union Station which was preserved through the work of Dana Crawford (look her up, she’s an iconic figure in Denver). Although all you’ll find of Denver’s unusually named Tramway is the building(now an REI) at Confluence Park, you can still ride a trolley from Confluence to our football stadium on the Platte. Some steam trains still run at the Colorado Railroad Museum and Georgetown. If model trains are your thing, then you probably know about Caboose Hobby store in Lakewood and the massive minature layouts a the Colorado Model Train museum in Greeley.
Denver like many cities if becoming more bike-friendly with protected bike lanes and some good bike trails particularly along the Platte River and Cherry Creek. You’ll also find the short term street rental stations for B-Cycle. The most unique bike related features of Denver are events: Tour de Fat, the Moonlight Classic Ride, Veloswap and Bike to Work Day to name a few.
Vestiges of horse transport remain in and around Denver. In Capitol Hill you can still spot some flagstone hitching posts. Hitching posts and book scrapers can also be found around some old downtown building and mansions. If you venture to the suburbs of Denver you’ll find among many houses horse pastures and stables. Horseback riding remains a popular western tradition. To see some really fancy riders check out the annual stock parade downtown in January as well as the National Stock Show.
Many of these methods of transport come together at Confluence Park-the defunct tramway, the trolley, kayakers, tubers, skateboarders flying in the air, cyclists, and cars passing over a group of bridges. You can even spot a horse or at least a cowboy on a mural on Little Raven Street.