Street Smart

Two handbooks provide clear and well-designed guidelines for American roads.

The manuals used to design the elements of our city streets tend to be deplorably designed themselves. So when the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) put out the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, “it really filled a niche,” says NACTO’s David Vega-Barachowitz. “Existing national bikeway guidance did not give a clear set of guidelines on how to design protected bikeways in the United States.” Last September, a second edition of the guide was released, with updates ranging from fine details such as the use of the color green, to larger strategies, such as traffic-calming measures on bike boulevards. Now NACTO is scaling up to showcase guidelines for the design of entire streets. Here, Vega-Barachowitz shares five key principles from the Urban Street Design Guide, to be released this fall.

• PUBLIC SPACES: Street performance is conventionally measured in terms of speed, delay, and congestion, but common areas can play a much larger role in the public life of cities.
• GREAT BUSINESS: Well-designed streets are economic assets, and can generate higher revenues for businesses and higher values for homeowners.
• SAFETY: Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among children aged five to 14. Traffic engineers should do better.
• ADAPTABILITY: Designers can work flexibly within the building envelope of a street. This includes moving curbs, changing alignments, daylighting corners, and redirecting traffic.
• ACTION: Implementing projects quickly using temporary materials helps inform public decision making. Cities across the United States have begun using this approach for major redesigns of their streets.

All images courtesy NATCO

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