Global Street Design Guide

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Global Street Design Guide

Streets for Environmental Sustainability

Designing streets that respond to their environment can help cities meet the challenges of a warming planet. Various international organizations and agendas, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, have increased the focus on environmental sustainability, greenhouse gas emissions,

and global warming. It is the time to promote the environmental benefits of great streets. Investment in sustainable streets can be attracted by highlighting improved environmental impacts and increased contribution toward achieving a city’s environmental goals.

Street trees and landscaping can assist in improving the local climate and reducing urban heat islands, thus minimizing the demand on energy intensive air-conditioning in vehicles and adjacent buildings.

Urban trees can reduce noise pollution.

Air Quality
Streets prioritizing pedestrians, cyclists, and transit help to reduce the number of personal motor vehicles circulating , reducing emissions and air pollution.

Water Management
Incorporating green infrastructure strategies and local plant species within streets helps manage stormwater and reduces irrigation needs. See: Utilities and Infrastructure.

Health and Safety
Urban trees and vegetation help decrease stress and aggressive behavior in cities 6 and have been linked to crime reduction.7

Energy Efficiency
Street projects can contribute to improving a city’s energy and resource
efficiency by using recycled and low impact materials and technologies as
well as renewable energies.


1. Michael Alabi et al., “Street Tree Canopy Cover Variation Effects on Temperature in Lokoja, Nigeria.” Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences 2 No. 2 (2013): 25.

2. David Nowalk et al., Understanding the Benefits and Costs of Urban Forest Ecosystems: Handbook of urban and Community Forestry in the Northeast New York (New York, NY: Klumer Academic/Plenum, 2007).

3. Robert J. Shapiro, Kevin A. Hassett, and Frank S. Arnold, Conserving Energy and Preserving the Environment: The Role of Public Transportation (Washington, DC: American Public Transportation Association, 2002).

4. Kathleen L. Wolf, “Urban Nature Benefits: Psycho-Social Dimensions of People and plants” (Fact Sheet No. 1, Center for Urban Horticulture, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 1998)

5. Foster Josh, Lowe Ashley and Winkelman Steve. The Value of Green Infrastructure for Urban Climate Adaptation (Washington, DC: Center for Clean Air Policy, 2011)

6. Ralf Hansmann, Stella-Maria Hug, and Klaus Seeland, “Restoration and Stress Relief through Physical Activities in Forests and Parks” Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 6, no. 4 (2007): 213-25.

7. Frances, Kuo and W. C. Sullivan, “Environment and Crime in the Inner City: Does Vegetation Reduce Crime?” Environment and Behavior 33, no. 3 (2001): 343-67.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.

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Safe Streets Save Lives