Subdivision and Street Design Regulations

The majority of residential subdivisions and streets built in the post-WWII era were designed primarily to accommodate the automobile rather than the pedestrian or bicyclist. Subdivision design elements included large lots (imposed through zoning codes), no alleys, numerous cul-de-sacs, large blocks, poor internal and external connectivity, and little or no pedestrian paths. Street design elements included wide streets, little or no on-street parking, no sidewalks or sidewalks with no buffer on one side of the street only, and almost never any bicycle facilities. The result was subdivisions that offered dispersed, unwelcoming, and sometimes unsafe pedestrian environments.

However, many communities are beginning to rethink the design of their residential areas and are considering pedestrians and bicyclists once again. One strategy is to retrofit existing subdivisions and streets to welcome non-motorized transportation modes, such as providing pedestrian cut-throughs through cul-de-sacs. Another, more proactive, approach is to require new subdivisions and streets to meet specific pedestrian and bicycle standards to increase functionality and safety.

A comprehensive listing of strategies for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety through street design is provided in the section, Engineer Pedestrian Facilities.



  • Town of Davidson Planning Ordinance—ordinance for Davidson, NC, includes a high-quality streets and greenways section (Section 11) that provides text, pictures, and illustrations to ensure the creation of pedestrian-friendly streets.
  • Sacramento Pedestrian Friendly Street Standards—program adopted in Sacramento, CA, in 2004 to retrofit existing streets and require new streets pedestrian-friendly standards.
  • Denver Comprehensive Plan—the Denver Comprehensive Plan is excellent in redefining street categories based on land uses. Accordingly, different street types have different priorities for infrastructure investments that support walking.