Can streets be made safe, attractive for walking and shopping, convenient for parking, driving and using public transport? The answer is yes, as fantastic as it may seem.
At least that’s what NACTO, the U.S. National Association of Transportation Departments, believes: On its own initiative, people in different parts of the country have been working together for several years to develop new standards for urban street design that meet the demands of today. and the challenges of the future.
- 1 The street is a public space
- 2 The project must ensure security
- 3 The street is an ecosystem
- 4 Convenient streets are convenient for business as well
- 5 Streets can be changed
- 6 Conversion must take place quickly
- 7 The streets must be designed with respect to their surroundings
- 8 One-way streets in the city centre
- 9 Two-way streets in the city center
- 10 Shopping streets
- 11 Shopping streets of shared use
- 12 Transport highways in the city center
- 13 Highways with public transport routes
- 14 Main streets in residential areas
- 15 Residential area streets
- 16 Secondary streets
- 17 Street Design
- 18 Street Design in residential areas
The street is a public space
As the most important public places in the city, streets are often underused. Any street not only provides traffic in the city, but also plays an important role in the life of cities and their communities, so the project must combine public space with a transport artery.
The project must ensure security
Transport designers can and must plan streets so that everyone who walks along them, rides a bicycle or a car, works for them, goes to shops or parks, can safely follow their path.
The street is an ecosystem
Streets need to be designed as ecosystems in which human-induced elements interact with nature. Environmental solutions can lead to sustainable development – from permeable sidewalks and biodegradable structures that regulate the outflow of rainwater to street greening that not only creates shade, but also serves to improve the urban environment.
Convenient streets are convenient for business as well
The administrations of many cities have already realized that the streets are not only a functional element of the transport system, but also an economic asset. Correctly designed streets increase business profits and property values for owners.
Streets can be changed
Transport designers can more freely approach the creation of the main street frame, including moving the edges of the carriageway, changing the markings, improving visibility at intersections and, if necessary, redirect traffic. Many city streets created or rebuilt before, today need to be updated and changed again, taking into account the requirements of today.
Conversion must take place quickly
You should not postpone implementation to a long box. Rapid implementation of projects – using inexpensive materials – helps prepare public opinion for reconstruction. Thus, the administrations of many cities in the U.S. have moved to a phased implementation of major redevelopment projects, in which quickly used temporary materials are replaced by permanent materials as they are funded and after receiving approval from residents. In addition, the “test mode” allows timely adjustment of the project. Full-scale reconstruction, including the creation of new drainage and storm sewer systems, the expansion of sidewalks and the isolation of bicycle lanes, may take from 5 to 10 years.
The streets must be designed with respect to their surroundings
This parameter is extremely important. The design of the street should simultaneously meet the needs of public space and determine its character. It is one thing to have a central street and quite another to have a boulevard in a residential area or a shopping area.
In the following, we will consider the recommendations already for specific typologies.
One-way streets in the city centre
This is primarily a street with heavy traffic, not a one-way alley.
In the course of a complete reconstruction, it is recommended that sidewalks be widened as much as possible – especially in places where they were previously narrowed in favour of additional traffic lanes.
In addition, the organization of a separate bicycle lane or cycle track in combination with a one-way parking lane on the left side of the street removes potential conflicts between bicycle flows and buses and creates a safety island for pedestrians, allowing them to cross the carriageway more quickly.
Two-way streets in the city center
Busy two-way streets are the most difficult to reconfigure and upgrade. Many such streets suffer from second-hand parking or conflict over loading and unloading. They accumulate large flows before curves and there is not enough space for cyclists and pedestrians. In this case, the lanes should be narrowed or the overall width of the carriageway should be reduced and conditions for cyclists improved.
Speaking of trade. Streets with many shops are often perceived as unsafe, although reconstruction can make them a link in the street network and improve the pedestrian structure in and around shopping areas. The design should maintain a balance between the potential of their development as public spaces and the necessary utilitarian functions.
If vehicular traffic on a shopping street is prohibited or minimized, environmentally friendly materials – water permeable or modular road surfaces – can be used in construction. And if traffic is allowed, it should be possible for trucks to enter.
A shared street is a place where a pedestrian and transport are at least equal in rights, and at the most – pedestrian preference. During rush hours or lunchtime, many of the narrow streets in the centre actually operate in this mode, although they are not well adapted for this.
When designing such streets, depending on the width available, 1-1.5 meters of space for pedestrian traffic should be allocated. This can be done with planting containers, posts and street equipment. They can also visually separate the pedestrian area from the carriageway and mark public space. In addition, it is proposed to close the shared streets for traffic at certain times of day – mobile containers and restrictive signs are used for this purpose.
Transport highways in the city center
Large streets connecting the centres of urban areas or crossing the centre of the city can be difficult for pedestrians to cross, reducing the value of real estate and therefore the quality of public space. Although there are already large traffic and crowd flows during the day and rush hour, they can be made even more convenient for all sections of traffic. It is recommended, for example, to organize a separation lane and bicycle lanes to increase the capacity of the street and reduce its overall width.
Highways with public transport routes
These streets stimulate economic development through high quality transport services and the simultaneous development of a pedestrian environment. Such transport corridors generate large pedestrian flows, so the design priority should be to improve pedestrian infrastructure in the surrounding area and along major access routes within the transport hub.
Main streets in residential areas
They are the focus of activity: the limited space is rivaled by numerous pedestrians, often alternating cars in parking lots and key public transport routes. The design of the main street should include speed limits and a narrower road profile, as well as frequent and convenient pedestrian crossings. Many main streets should be improved through a “road diet” (narrowing) and the reduction of lanes.
Residential area streets
Local streets in residential areas often do not use their full potential for entertainment and recreation. These streets need to be safe and attractive for walking with direct access to shops and educational institutions. Local street projects may combine storm drainage, sidewalk expansion, artificial bumps and bicycle infrastructure, and other measures to ensure traffic at safe speed and distance.
Double-ended secondary streets are usually located in residential areas and are designed for low speed traffic. Many of them have a large number of off-road parking spaces, with parking spaces on the street itself being used for 40-60%. In order to provide the street with maximum functionality, the parking spaces should be arranged in a chess order. If parking spaces are located on both sides, the optimal width of the street will be 7-8.5 m, and in case of one-way parking the carriageway can be narrowed to 5 m.
They divide very large streets into several parallel spaces and serve as a buffer between shopping or residential areas and high-speed roads through doubler roads and multilateral traffic. When designing, special attention must be paid to cross traffic intersections. Wrong decisions can create confusing or dangerous situations at intersections. And to breathe life into the central alleys, you need walkways and benches. To facilitate access to these alleys, we recommend sidewalk protuberances or crosswalks on the street.
In almost all developed cities of the world, the streets occupy about 20% of the total city area. The main role of streets all over the world is to connect different parts of a city, while at the same time their appearance forms a public space. Of all the elements of the urban environment, streets are the first to determine the recognition of a city, its identity.
Since the early 20th century, the design of urban streets worldwide has given priority to individual and public transport. The streets had rather narrow sidewalks, no bicycle lanes, little space was allocated for stops, the space was not adapted for people with limited mobility.
At present, approaches to forming street space are changing. Factors such as their position in the city structure, traffic intensity, meeting the needs of all categories of users, and ease of use have begun to be taken into account in street design. A complex approach to beautification has appeared.
In the framework of this work the standards of improvement of streets in the cities of Abu Dhabi (UAE), Sydney (Australia), Calgary (Canada), the state of California (USA), India, as well as requirements to the appearance of facades and their elements, the appearance of small architectural forms, placement of information structures in a number of European cities were analyzed.
In all analysed foreign standards uniform principles of designing of a complex accomplishment of territories adjacent to a carriageway are noted. The standards include a description of the objectives and the circle of persons to whom this document is addressed, the principles of designing urban streets and their classification, zoning the cross-profile of the pedestrian street, a list of necessary and recommended for the design of elements of improvement and requirements for them.
Standardization of the street space starts with classification of both the city territories and the existing street and road network.
The classification is based on traffic intensity, vehicle speed, width of the roadway. In some cases, forecasts of the potential number of pedestrians are given. Depending on the location of the street in the city structure, priority directions of its zoning and, consequently, its arrangement are determined.
Based on the results of the classification, possible variants of profiles are studied and functional zones of the street are determined, as well as the variability of mutual location of functional zones is investigated.
The set of elements and their requirements depending on the transverse profile of the street are determined in detail.
When designing streets, the following elements are taken into account in foreign standards: carriageways, pedestrian paths (sidewalks) with places of short-term rest, bicycle paths, transport stops, parking lots, street furniture, navigation elements including intuitive, pedestrian crossings, devices for small mobile groups, functional and architectural street lighting and landscaping, including landscape design.
Street Design in residential areas
In many cases, these streets are characterized by excessive width, underutilized parking spaces and excessive lanes. When renovating, the dividing lane should be extended or used more actively, bicycle lanes on the right or left, and sidewalk protuberances at pedestrian crossings between houses and the dividing lane.
It follows from the above that the main principle to be followed is that the approach to street design should be conscious and meaningful. Times Square in New York, Walker Drive in Chicago, Spring Street in Los Angeles are all successful results of modern techniques on the streets of American cities.
Apparently, another system of standards and recommended solutions will be developed, but this time even more general – and involving a large team of architects and designers. These will include international stars Vini Maas of MVRDV and Harvard School of Design professor and landscape architect Martha Schwartz. Thus, they hope to test the widest possible range of approaches – in order to subsequently develop the optimal strategy.
In all the countries mentioned above, project activities are carried out in five phases of street construction: information gathering, conceptualization, design, verification and approval, working design.
The improvement of the mainland space in foreign countries provides comfortable conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and small mobile groups, as well as visual aesthetics of the area.