Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

One Street, Different Contexts

Context is a crucial, yet often overlooked, factor in designing streets. Densities, land uses, and travel characteristics can shift as the street traverses the city from one neighborhood to another. Street design should respond to and affect the desired character of the public realm. As the needs and uses along a street change, street designs should respond and adjust accordingly.

Below, a single street is illustrated at three points along its length, depicting three different potential designs that respond to the adjacent contexts.

Context 1: Neighborhood Main Street

  • A mix of residential and commercial ground floor uses line each side of the street in a low-to-mid density context.
  • Transit is provided in mixed traffic.
  • Dedicated cycle tracks are created in both directions.
  • On-street parking is maintained.
  • Green infrastructure and trees are added.
  • Transit stops are provided on boarding islands.

Context 2: Central Two-Way Street

  • Transit lines run along a dedicated center-running transit lane.
  • Side-loading transit stations are connected with raised crossings.
  • Parking is exchanged for wider sidewalks to support higher pedestrian volumes.
  • One travel lane is maintained in each direction with slow speeds and limited access, and is shared with cycles.

Context 3: Transit Street

  • The street transitions into a transit mall in a high-density context, serving large volumes of pedestrians.
  • Commercial activity extends from storefronts, and new street furniture supports a high-quality public realm.
  • Collective transport moves through the space at slow speeds, allowing all users to safely navigate the mall.
  • A mix of uses keeps the space active and engaging through the day and evening.

One Context, Different Priorities

Understanding the existing conditions of a street is important in guiding responsible street design. It is equally important, however, to identify the functions and uses desirable for the future. Current street types can, and often should, transform from one type to another in order to support long-term

citywide policy goals. Three possible alternatives for a given street with a specific context are illustrated below. Each example reflects a different set of priorities and desired outcomes identified during the planning and design process.


Existing Context

  • A dense, mixed-use urban neighborhood.
  • Two lanes of traffic in each direction.
  • Angled parking and narrow sidewalks.

Option 1: Two-Way Street with Bidirectional Cycle Track

  • Travel lanes are narrowed and reduced.
  • Parallel parking is kept on one side.
  • Collective transport remains in mixed traffic.
  • Transit stops improve accessible boarding.
  • A two-way cycle track is included on one side.
  • Sidewalks are widened.
  • Parklets, trees, and loading bays alternate with parking spaces.

Option 2: Transit-Oriented Street

  • Mixed traffic is removed and replaced with transit-only lanes.
  • Rain gardens and trees are added to support the citywide green infrastructure plan.
  • Spaces for seating, shade structures, vendors, and transit stops are included on each block.
  • A continuous surface with wide, clear paths allows commercial activity to extend from adjacent buildings and ground floors.

Option 3: Shared Street

  • The street is redesigned as a shared street, as part of a network of pedestrian-priority spaces in the city center.
  • A continuous surface prioritizes pedestrians and invites private motor vehicles and loading vehicles to use the space at slow speeds.
  • Street furniture and landscape improve the quality of the public realm.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.