Street Design: Part 1 - Complete Streets

Federal Highway Administration

For decades, the purpose and goal of street design in the United States was to move as much motorized traffic as expeditiously as possible from point A to point B, regardless of whether the traffic was moving along a major freeway or commercial arterial, or through a city center, village main street, or even a residential neighborhood. Applied speed limits and street design standards would vary from route to route, but in general street design and traffic engineering were all about moving cars and trucks from their origins to their destinations. Even as early as the beginning of the 20th century, officials in New York City mandated the narrowing of sidewalks to create more numerous and wider lanes to accommodate motorized traffic. Pedestrians, planners thought, did not need much room to maneuver.

However, developing a transportation system primarily for motorized vehicular traffic has failed to meet the travel needs and preferences of large segments of the country's population. Among the many factors influencing the planning, design, and operation of today's streets are concerns about accommodating the needs of an aging population, improving public health and fitness, reducing dependence upon foreign oil, minimizing transportation costs, creating and maintaining vibrant neighborhoods, reducing the fossil fuel emissions that contribute to climate change, and adopting greener and more sustainable lifestyles. Ensuring that roads provide safe mobility for all travelers, not just motor vehicles, is at the heart of a new approach to envisioning and building surface transportation facilities known as "complete streets."

Filed in: Promoting Walking and Bicycling, Plans and Policies, Transit

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