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360: How to maneuver around other drivers on Denver's narrow streets

Drivers question whether to pass or pull over
Posted at 6:49 AM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-17 08:49:02-05

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DENVER — Anyone who has driven down one of Denver’s narrow side streets or residential blocks has likely experienced a dilemma when encountering another driver coming the opposite direction: Is one driver supposed to pull over and let the other driver pass? Or should both vehicles try to squeeze past one another at the same time?

A post on Nextdoor prompted Denver7 to take a 360 look at this question. The post read, “There’s technically enough room to squeeze past each other (in most cases), but it seems most drivers pull over or assume the other driver will pull over. I’m a ‘squeezer’ (it’s just faster and more efficient), but it seems to cause confusion or frustration with other drivers. How do we address this important issue?”

The post had dozens of reactions, with many arguing it’s safer for one driver to pull over. So Denver7 sought the input from the Denver Police Department, a driving instructor, residents on narrow streets, and commuters.

Denver police said there is no law stating the right way to maneuver on a narrow street.

Denver police spokesperson Jay Casillas said they're not aware of any law in any state that outlines what somebody should do those situations.

“The main point here is just maybe using common courtesy," he said.

But what is the most courteous move? Mile High Driver Training owner Chuck Lamonaca said he believes pulling over is safest.

“It’s all about my safety in the end, right?” he said. “If it means me getting in a crash or not, I’m going to duck out."

Driver Kyle Creager said he also prefers to pull over.

“It’s the right thing to do — it helps keep people happy and I’m not going home mad that someone else was being a jerk to me on the road,” he said.

But Pearl Street resident Laura Homann said there’s usually room on residential streets for two cars to pass at the same time.

“I think it’s a confidence thing,” she said. “I think you need to know what car size you have and maybe figure out if you can scooch past."

The size of vehicles definitely matters on narrow streets. Clarkson Street resident Jan Tilden recounted an incident when a large pickup truck and a Humvee met in the middle of the street. With no way to fit past one another, eventually the Humvee had to back up, Tilden said.

"They played chicken and the (Humvee) lost," she said.

Jack Todd, with Bicycle Colorado, said older streets in Denver weren’t designed with today’s vehicles in mind.

“Cars have gotten just bigger and bigger and bigger and they take up a lot more space on the road than they used to,” he said.

As a cyclist, he prefers narrow streets because the traffic tends to move slower. When driving, Todd said he also prefers to pull aside for passing traffic on narrow streets. He urged drivers to remember that everyone is trying to get somewhere.

“When you’re driving you tend to think you’re the only person on the road and all the other cars out there are other cars in front of you,” he said. “But they’re people, and bicyclists are people too and pedestrians are people."