Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

Street Activity

Document the types of activities occurring on the street, noting specific locations. Measure the site at different times of the day, week, and year noting how long people spend there and whether they are sitting, playing, shopping, or partaking in other activities. Note areas where these activities block clear paths.

Strategically locate dedicated space and facilities within the street to entice a variety of activities while keeping the space safe, healthy, vibrant, and accessible.

Street Furniture

Locate and count street furniture such as seating, lighting fixtures, bus shelters, wayfinding signage, cycle racks, and cycle share facilities.

Carefully plan street furniture design and locations to meet the desirable street activity patterns and needs. Ensure the placement of street furniture maintains clear paths along sidewalks for unobstructed and accessible movement, and clear paths on roadbeds for emergency vehicles and city services.

Human Scale

Observe and note building edges, street furniture, and overall street scale in reference to the human scale and human usage.

Design the street to respond to the human scale. Promote and incentivize human-scale building edges. Align street lighting, wayfinding, and signage to human eye level, and design street furniture to accommodate universal accessibility.


To identify what changes are possible, first measure the street widths and note dimensions of areas dedicated to different users. Measure at multiple locations when widths are inconsistent.

Change street geometry to appropriately distribute the limited space among different users. Prioritize space for pedestrians, cyclists, and collective transport. Include space for green infrastructure and other non-mobility activities and functions wherever possible.

Mobility Mode Share

Measure the existing mode share along the street to understand how it is used. Note how user counts vary at different times of the day, week, or year, or according to the specific operational strategies in use.

Design the street to promote safe, accessible, efficient, and comfortable walking, cycling, and collective transport over private car use. Accommodate easy transfers from one travel mode to another.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Document location and type of lighting and other utilities that impact street design. Identify obstacles to safe pedestrian movement, and note if obstructions are fixed or movable.

Locate areas with insufficient lighting, and identify areas prone to flooding or standing water.

Design streets to improve energy efficiency, water management, and air quality. Provide safe and quality lighting to support a sense of place.

Building Edges and Uses

Observe and document the building edges and any setback areas. Note different use types on the ground floor, and assess how those support or hinder street activity.

Design streets to support the uses in the adjacent buildings. Provide clear paths, space for street furniture, and designate areas for ground floor uses to extend into    the street at strategic locations.


Measure transparency levels of the ground floors of buildings. Note long stretches of blank facades, fences, or building setbacks, and the overall sense of safety and surveillance.

Design streets to support the visual extension of ground floor uses into the public realm, adding life and interest to the street. Provide landscaping, artwork, and other engaging elements to reduce the negative impact of blank facades or inactive building setbacks.


Document the location and frequency of entrances to the adjacent buildings, noting their uses. Identify locations with heavy pedestrian volumes at various times of the day.

Increase pedestrian spaces and add supporting street furniture near, but not in the way of, busy entrances. Promote frequent and active entrances and ensure clear paths appropriate for accommodating pedestrian volumes.

Green Infrastructure

Locate existing trees and planted areas. Take note of the local climate, planting seasons, and species. Identify the water table, sub-surface conditions, and utilities.

Include trees and planted areas in street design to improve air quality, provide shade, improve water management systems, support local ecosystems, and create living streets. Use native species to plant streets and improve the microclimate.

Local Climate

Consider local climates, average temperatures, and frequency of extreme weather events.

Include protection from extreme heat, heavy rains, snow, or strong winds. Provide shade to minimize urban heat island effect and improve pedestrian comfort in warmer climates. Design for solar exposure and snow removal in colder climates. Prepare street infrastructure and materials to adapt to seismic and geologic changes, and other natural disasters.

Curbside Management

Document the number of dedicated and illegal on-street parking spaces, noting cost per hour and any use restrictions. Identify loading spaces and truck routes, as well as any current management strategies.

Develop curbside management strategies that include purpose-based zones, time limits for parking and deliveries, and pricing strategies. Remove on-street parking spaces for other uses when competing needs and priorities are identified.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.

Changing Contexts

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Changing Contexts