2014: How to Make Billions While Making People Happy and
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Arterial Streets and Grand Boulevards
April 13, 2014
I thought that I would say a few things about what I call
"arterial streets," and also the larger "grand boulevards."
Arterial Streets are designed for wheeled vehicles, with a
segregated central roadway of two to four lanes, plus
sidewalks on either side. The Grand Boulevard would have
four lanes or more. (I overlap the two categories a bit,
because once you start adding things like central turn
lanes, median strips, shoulders/onstreet parking, bike
lanes, Green Space buffers and so forth, a street can take
on a Grand Boulevard character with four main lanes.) The
Arterial Street is the smallest form of street in 19th
Century Hypertrophism. In the Traditional City, however,
most streets are a smaller and different format: the Really
Narrow or pedestrian street. The pedestrian street is
designed primarily for use by walking humans. It is
typically one flat surface from one side to the other, with
no segregated automobile roadway and no sidewalks. You could
say the entire street is a "sidewalk." Because you really
don't need much street width at all for people walking,
these streets tend to be quite narrow, perhaps twelve to
twenty feet from building-to-building assuming no front
setback. If it becomes larger than this, it typically begins
to feel quite barren and "oversized" unless you have a very
large amount of people traffic, literally thousands of
You can certainly drive a car, truck, or even a bus on a
Really Narrow pedestrian street, and often this is done, at
least for deliveries and pickups and even for personal
automobiles. However, it is primarily a place for people,
such that people feel comfortable walking down the middle of
the street even if they are sharing it with motorized
vehicles, which are typically traveling very slowly, at
10mph or less.
Thus, the pedestrian street naturally tends to be Really
Narrow, certainly compared to the Arterial Street which can
easily be sixty feet wide when including both the central
automobile roadway and sidewalks, plus any additional
buffers and so forth.
I've given a basic ratio of 80% Really Narrow pedestrian
streets, 17% Arterial streets and 3% Grand Boulevards as a
way of thinking about how a Traditional City can be laid
out. This measure is by street length. Since the Really
Narrow street is much narrower than the Arterials and Grand
Boulevards, these larger formats take a proportionately
larger amount of total surface area devoted to streets.
Although it may seem that this would create problems for
motorized vehicles, in practice this is not the case.
Although 80% of the streets are of the Really Narrow
people-centric type, in actuality there are few places that
are more than perhaps 200-300 meters from an Arterial
Street. Thus, any trip in a wheeled vehicle would be on
Arterial or larger streets until the last 200 meters or so,
which might be done at a sub-10mph pace. Thus, from the
perspective of a driver, it is largely irrelevant. Indeed,
the Really Narrow street offers some attractions to a
driver. There is typically very little auto traffic at all,
so it is often easy to stop the vehicle right in the middle
of the street for at least a few minutes, enough for a taxi
dropoff or package delivery.
Let's stop there and see what all of this looks like in real
This is a basic Arterial street, in Tokyo. Clearly, this
is at the narrower end of the range. However, note that
there is a segregated central roadway with sidewalks on
either side. Obviously, once you are designating the
center of the street for wheeled vehicles, and the
sidewalks for walkers, then it is no longer a
people-centric street (Really Narrow "pedestrian" street).
This is not necessarily related to street width alone, and
indeed there are many Really Narrow pedestrian streets
that are as wide or wider than this.
This street is not much narrower, but it is in the Really
Narrow pedestrian street format, with one surface from
side to side. There is no segregated place for wheeled
vehicles and people, and as you can see people are
comfortable walking down the middle of the street. Note
that there is a bus making its way down this street! It is
traveling very slowly, and is thus no particular danger or
nuisance, despite being a very large vehicle.
Another typical Really Narrow pedestrian street in Tokyo.
No sidewalks, and people are comfortable walking down the
middle of the street. Note the bikes and small
motorcycles. This is not a "pedestrian only" area. But,
everyone gets along easily together.
Another popular "shopping street" in Tokyo. No central
automobile roadway here!
Another Really Narrow pedestrian street in Tokyo. Note the
truck on the left making a delivery or pickup. It's not
really a problem.
Obviously this is on the narrow end of the Really Narrow
Street range. Yes, this is a "street" not a "back alley."
These are the front entrances of houses and apartment
buildings. The small lighted sign on the left is for a
hairdresser. Tokyo again. Note the high-rise buildings in
This is a slightly larger Arterial Street. It is still
quite narrow -- narrow enough that we do not yet have two
segregated lanes of traffic. However, there is clearly a
segregated central roadway and sidewalks. Note the steel
fence barriers along the sidewalks. We will talk more
about those soon.
Now we are getting to a larger sort of Arterial Street. I
generally designate "arterials" as two-to-four lanes of
segregated automobile traffic. Here we have four lanes.
It's getting pretty big already, isn't it? It is soooo
much different than the Really Narrow pedestrian streets
we looked at earlier. Note that there are no shoulders, no
street parking, and again we have those steel fences along
In practice, if you want to stop, the driver can typically
pull into a Really Narrow Street, along the many
intersections along the sides. This serves much the same
purpose as shoulders.
An Arterial Street in Tokyo.
Arterial street widths are not very
standardized in Tokyo. This is basically a two-laner, but
it has some extra width. Note again the sidewalks with
I just thought I'd throw another Really Narrow Street shot
in there. Tokyo.
This is your basic two-laner Arterial, although with
rather wide sidewalks and quite a few trees.
An Arterial in the boutique district of Ginza.
Now we are getting up to the Grand Boulevard size, with
more than four lanes of traffic (here we have a total of
eight). Note the steel fences and bushes along the
sidewalks. No shoulders or onstreet parking here, but we
have a median strip and a left-turn lane. Godzilla
photobombs. You can certainly have very wide automobile
streets like this, but not too many
. This is for
longer crosstown trips. I estimate roughly 3% of total
street length should be Grand Boulevards.
Another typical Grand Boulevard-size street. High-rise
construction and these larger streets naturally go well
Now that we have looked at some arterial streets, let's
think about a few design issues.
As I've said in the past, a lot of "green
space" in Suburban Hell today serves as a "buffer" between
automobile roadways and various places where people are,
known as Places.
Place and Non-Place
This has been disastrous, as the city becomes consumed by
automobile roadways, parking lots, and immense amounts of
buffer space to make all the roadways and parking lots more
However, we should also recognize that the buffer space is
there for a purpose: to create some barrier or insulation
between a lane of moving traffic, and the places where
people are -- homes, offices, stores, sidewalks, parks etc.
This, in itself, is a worthy purpose. The trick is to have
fewer automobile roadways and parking lots, so that you
don't need so much buffer space. That's why I suggest that a
Traditional City design be 80% Really Narrow pedestrian
I noted several times the use of steel railings along
Arterial Streets in Japan. Obviously, they too felt a need
for some kind of buffer between the people space (sidewalk)
and a lane of traffic. Because these Arterial Streets often
do not have either a Green Space buffer (3-5 feet of trees
or shrubbery), or a buffer in the form of on-street parking
or a shoulder, they have opted for the most space-efficient
design, a steel railing.
Thus, I suggest that Arterial Streets should have some kind
of buffer between a lane of moving traffic and the sidewalk.
This can take the form of a steel railing of some sort, but
perhaps a Green Space buffer consisting of at least three
feet of grass, trees, shrubbery and so forth would be
better. Our roadways are already going to be forty or more
feet wide, so an additional ten feet or so of buffer space
(five feet on either side) is perhaps not too much of a
concession. These Japanese Arterial Streets are often, like
most streets in most cities, historical remnants of some
pre-automobile period, so they had to make do with what they
had, which was often not very much space to work with.
Conversely, the Really Narrow pedestrian street typically
requires no buffers at all. If people feel a buffer is
needed, it is often a reaction to an oversized pedestrian
street. When a pedestrian street becomes too wide, it begins
to feel quite empty and barren, which people often try to
compensate for by adding shrubbery.
This outdoor shopping mall in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a
100% pedestrian place with no vehicles or cyclists.
However, in the typically stupid American fashion, the
street width subtly imitates the 19th Century
Hypertrophism of the small town Main Street, resulting in
a very wide, barren area, which is also not identifiably a
Traditional City element like a square or plaza. The
designers are attempting to compensate for this area with
the addition of Green Space, although the result is not
identifiably a park, garden or other such element of the
Traditional City, which I call a Place. They are just
piling error on error.
You can certainly incorporate plants into a Really Narrow
Street environment, with wonderful effect. However, this
is not to compensate for the error of an overly-large
street, and is not used here as a "buffer."
Gorgeous? Oh yes. But, this is not a buffer or Green
Space, and is not to compensate for an overly-large barren
I think street parking is hideous.
If you don't think so, just try to parallel park in heavy
traffic. Women avoid it altogether. Street parking is common
in the U.S., but this did not arise because of some design
consideration for automobiles. Actually, it is a solution
adopted later for streets that dated from the pre-automobile
age. Unlike Japan, which generally had Really Narrow
pedestrian-sized streets in urban places, in the U.S. during
the 19th century, people adopted 19th Century Hypertrophism,
which had vastly oversized streets in many situations. Once
you have a vastly oversized street, then you might as well
use some of it for shoulders or street parking. After a
while, this became habitual, and the same format was
repeated even in new development after 1950. The places that
have tolerable street parking in the U.S. (not trying to
parallel park in heavy traffic) are typically those where
there is no need for it -- probably a place without much
traffic, and large amounts of existing off-street parking,
like the typical U.S. suburban residential street. For one
thing, street parking alone can't accommodate very many
parked vehicles. If you have that many vehicles, you
probably have some other kind of off-street parking solution
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the Suburbs Came to Be
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Let's Take a Trip to an American Village
One function of street parking is to provide a buffer
between the sidewalk and automobile traffic. People have a
sense for this, so if you don't have some other buffer
solution, people will tend to grasp at street parking or
shoulders. These are both flawed solutions in my opinion, so
it is better to have a proper buffer solution of Green Space
(it's always nice to have some trees), or perhaps a steel
railing if space is an issue.
Street parking is rare on Japanese Arterial Streets,
although it does exist sporadically.
As with street parking, shoulders provide
a buffer space between the traffic and the sidewalk. Either
a Green Space buffer or a railing would be better. Because
19th Century Hypertrophic cities do not have Really Narrow
Streets, then of course people think that some of these
Arterial Streets should have some means for a vehicle to
stop. However, when you have intersections with Really
Narrow Streets every hundred meters or so (the spacing
between numbered streets in Manhattan is about 260 feet),
then there are many places to pull over if necessary, and
make short stops. Generally, a truck can park briefly (for a
pickup or dropoff) right in the middle of a Really Narrow
Street, with no particular difficulty. For longer periods of
parking, small parking lots are often available. The kind of
large, possibly high-rise buildings that are often found
along Arterial Streets often have their own loading docks
Thus, as with street parking, I see no particular need for
shoulders. These do serve a role within the 19th Century
Hypertrophic environment as we know it in the U.S., but
these roles can be served better in other ways, in my
Garbage truck stopped on a Really Narrow Street in Tokyo
for a trash pickup. No shoulder, no sidewalks, no
"onstreet parking," no offstreet parking.
No problems whatsoever.
This street is wide enough for a vehicle to pass around
another stopped vehicle, if necessary (if the stopped
vehicle is off to the side of course).
However, Grand Boulevards, as they are expressly designed
for high-volume vehicular traffic, may include something
like shoulders. At this point, the street is so wide that
adding a bit of shoulder space is perhaps no great problem.
Plus, maintaining good vehicular traffic flow is a priority.
Remember that Grand Boulevards constitute only about 3% of
total street length in my example. If only 3% of streets
have shoulders, it is not that big a deal.
In the Traditional City, biking is far
more pleasant along the Really Narrow Streets that
constitute perhaps 80% of total street width. Why try to
share a roadway with fast-moving motorized traffic when you
can have a whole street all to yourself? The more crowded
Really Narrow commercial streets would have too much walking
traffic for easy biking, but typically there are a great
many other Really Narrow Streets that are largely empty, and
very pleasant for cycling.
Thus, Arterial Streets do not really require bike lanes
either, this role being taken by the abundant Really Narrow
Other purposes of Arterial Streets:
Wouldn't you rather ride your bike here than on some
traffic-filled Arterial Street? What if 80% of all streets
looked like this?
I might mention
that Arterial Streets serve some purposes besides enabling
vehicular traffic. For example, they serve as firebreaks.
Here for the Traditional City/Heroic Materialism