Many of the great 'walkable streets' of North Texas have high levels of streetscaping: great design elements, walkability, and create a sense of place. NCTCOG has created a brochure showcasing some of the best examples of lively walkable places throughout the region.
Streetscape refers to urban roadway design and conditions as they impact street users and nearby residents. Streetscaping recognizes that streets are places where people engage in various activities, including but not limited to motor vehicle travel. Streetscapes are an important component of the public realm (public spaces where people interact), which helps define a community’s aesthetic quality, identity, economic activity, health, social cohesion and opportunity, not just its mobility.
Streetscaping (programs to improve streetscape conditions) can include:
- changes to the road cross section (ex., narrowing travel lanes to provide room for on-street bicycle facilities),
- traffic management (implementing features such as curb bulb-outs, speed humps, chicanes, etc., to slow/manage traffic),
- sidewalk conditions,
- landscaping (particularly tree cover),
- street furnishings (utility pole treatments or placement, benches, garbage cans, etc.),
- building fronts (building facades, awnings, architectural details, etc.),
- materials specifications (street pavers, pavement markings, street furnishings, etc.), and
- improved signage (way-finding, directional, regulatory, etc.).
Streetscape can have a significant effect on how people perceive and interact with their community. If streetscapes are safe and inviting to pedestrians, people are more likely to walk which can help reduce automobile traffic, improve public health, stimulate local economic activity, and attract residents and visitors to a community.
Streetscapes as Part of the Transportation System
Urban roadways have diverse functions. Streets accommodate automobile, public transit traffic, bicycle and pedestrian traffic; provide access to adjacent buildings and other destinations; provide space for commercial and recreational activities; and function as linear parks. Streetscaping therefore must account for various impacts and balance various planning objectives.
Streetscaping can help create more diverse transportation systems and more accessible communities by improving nonmotorized travel conditions, creating more attractive urban environments, and integrating special design features such as Pedestrian Improvements, Cycling Improvements, Traffic Calming, HOV Priority and Road Space Reallocation. Streetscaping is an important component of Transit Oriented Development and other efforts to redevelop urban areas. It often includes wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes, bus pullouts, and improved on-street parking design.
Streetscape features, such as street lights, trees and landscaping, and street furniture can contribute to the unique character of a block or entire neighborhood. Additionally, streetscapes have been proven to calm traffic and encourage bicycle and pedestrian traffic by creating safe spaces. Enhancements to the streetscape such as special paving treatments and street furnishings can contribute to the experience for pedestrians and help define neighborhood character. Well-designed streetscapes can support activities in neighborhood business districts, and make walking an attractive choice for getting around the city.
NCTCOG recognizes and supports the range of benefits a well-designed streetscape provides for all pedestrians, including people with disabilities. For these reasons, careful review of streetscape design elements for all projects should be conducted to ensure that all of the materials, dimensions and design elements meet safety and accessibility requirements. ADA requires a minimum of five feet of clear sidewalk space for two wheel chair users to pass one another. TxDOT prefers six feet of unobstructed, linear sidewalk space that is free of street furniture, street trees, planters, and other vertical elements. These minimum widths are required to provide access to people with mobility impairments.
Curb space to accommodate bike lanes, parking, loading zones, transit zones, and other street elements should also be included. While wide sidewalks and planting strips may meet many City and neighborhood goals, on-street parking spaces in business districts may also meet multiple policies and goals. Trade-offs are often necessary among the numerous uses competing for limited amounts of curb space. Removing parking to add other street elements is possible in many locations and always requires careful consideration of business and neighborhood parking needs. Transit system needs, including bus zones, must be accommodated to support quick and reliable transit service throughout the city. The following features should be considered when developing a streetscape.
- Curbline (including curb bulbs, etc.) or roadway edge;
- Special curb space zones (e.g., loading zones, bus layover zones);
- Parking, on-street location and configuration;
- Roadway network in grid form;
- Short blocks (300’ – 500’);
- Traffic operations;
- Transit routes (bus, light rail or streetcar);
- Service access and delivery needs; and
- Street classifications within a quarter mile of the proposed site.
- Sidewalks, walkways, or other pedestrian space (location and dimensions);
- Bicycle parking;
- Paving material design;
- Pedestrian oriented buildings;
- Trees and landscaping design, location and specimen type;
- Street furniture (e.g., benches, planters, waste receptacles);
- Weather protection (e.g., awnings);
- Signage, especially any non-standard or special signs;
- Public art or other unique features; and
- Transit stops or stations.
Pedestrian street lights are an important element for streetscape improvements. The document at the web link below provides examples of pedestrian street lighting and cost information from some of the projects funded by the Sustainable Development Funding Program. The lighting costs include pole bases, poles, and light fixtures only. Labor, construction, and installation costs are not included in the estimates.
Pedestrian Street Lighting Cost Comparisons
- Utilities, type and location of water, power and drainage both above and below grade; and
- Natural drainage.
The Sidewalk Corridor is the portion of the pedestrian system from the edge of the roadway to the edge of the right-of-way (i.e., property line), generally along the sides of streets, between street corners. To ensure that the needs of the pedestrian are prioritized, Portland, Oregon, has developed a design system that divides the sidewalk corridor into four zones (Portland Pedestrian Design Guide, 1998). The zone system should be used to determine the width of the sidewalk corridor and to ensure that obstacles, such as newspaper boxes or utility poles, will not limit pedestrian access. The four zones within the sidewalk corridor are the:
- Curb zone;
- Planter/furniture zone;
- Pedestrian zone; and
- Frontage zone.
The width of the sidewalk corridor will be determined primarily by the width of the planter/furniture, pedestrian, and frontage zones. The size of the curb zone is generally constant throughout a municipality. Taking into account the minimum width of each zone, at least 2.59 m (8.5 ft) of right-of-way should be allocated to the sidewalk corridor. However, additional space is often needed to accommodate items such as pedestrian crossings, on-street parking, street cafes, and high pedestrian volumes. Table 1 contains recommendations for the minimum widths of each zone.
2 ft (4 ft if planting trees)
Total Sidewalk Corridor
At pedestrian crossings (e.g., midblock crossing or street intersections), the sidewalk corridor should be wide enough to install curb ramps with level landings. If the ramp is primarily in the planter/furniture zone, the pedestrian zone remains level. Although a variety of designs may be considered, a perpendicular curb ramp that is oriented at a 90 degree angle to the curb is recommended for access from the pedestrian zone to the street.
Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach: An ITE Recommended Practice - This report was developed in response to widespread interest for improving both mobility choices and community character through a commitment to creating and enhancing walkable communities. Many agencies worked towards developing the goals, concepts, and principles in the report to ensure the users, community and other key factors are considered in the planning and design processes used to develop walkable urban thoroughfares.
The Smart Transportation Guidebook provides specific recommended roadway design features (desired operating speeds, travel lanes, lane width, shoulder width, parking lane, bike lane, median, curb design, sidewalk width, and buffer between traffic and pedestrians) for different types of roadways (regional arterial, community arterial, community collector, neighborhood collector and local road) for various land use conditions (Rural, Suburban Neighborhood, Suburban Corridor, Suburban Center, Town/Village Neighborhood, Town/Village Center and Urban Core).
Access Board (2006), Public Rights of Way, U.S. Access Board: A Federal Agency Committed To Accessible Design (www.access-board.gov/prowac).
Alta Planning + Design (2005), Caltrans Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities Technical Reference Guide: A Technical Reference and Technology Transfer Synthesis for Caltrans Planners and Engineers, California Department of Transportation (www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/survey/pedestrian/TR_MAY0405.pdf).
Beneficial Designs, Inc. et al. (1999 and 2001), Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access; Part 1, Review of Existing Guidelines and Practices, Publication No. FHWA-HEP-99-006; Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access; Part 2, Best Practice Design Guide, Publication No. FHWA-EP-01-027, Federal Highway Administration, USDOT (www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped).
Complete Streets (www.completestreets.org) is a campaign to promote roadway designs that effectively accommodate multiple modes and support local planning objectives.
Reid Ewing, Otto Clemente, Susan Handy, Emily Winston and Ross C. Brownson (2005), Urban Design Qualities Related to Walkability: Measurement Instrument for Urban Design Qualities Related to Walkability, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Active Living Research Program (http://activelivingresearch.org/index.php/357).
FHWA (2001), Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access; Part 2, Best Practice Design Guide, Federal Highway Administration, USDOT (www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped), Publication No. FHWA-EP-01-027.
FHWA (2008), A Resident's Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities, Federal Highway Administration Office of Safety; FHWA-SA-07-016 (http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov); at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/ped_walkguide.
Todd Litman (2006), “Managing Diverse Modes and Activities on Nonmotorized Facilities: Guidance for Practitioners,” ITE Journal, Vol. 76, No. 6 (www.ite.org), June 2006, pp. 20-27; based on Todd Litman and Robin Blair (2005), Managing Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) On Nonmotorized Facilities, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org); available at www.vtpi.org/man_nmt_fac.pdf.
Project for Public Spaces (www.pps.org) works to create and sustain public places that build communities. It provides a variety of resources for developing more livable communities.
Walkable Communities (www.walkable.org) helps create people-oriented environments.
Walkable Places Project (www.walkableplaces.org) provides resources to help non-experts evaluate barriers and opportunities for walking.