Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

Comparing Street Users

Comparing the size of and space occupied by different street users reveals the advantages of designing streets for transit, cycling, and walking. Providing high-quality facilities for these spatially efficient, affordable, and sustainable transportation modes allows the same street to accommodate more people. Reducing the amount of space devoted to movement and storage of private vehicles maximizes the amount of space available for other activities that add to the quality of the street.

Scale and Size

People and vehicles take up different amounts of space when they are moving. Each needs an operational envelope that feels comfortable and supports safe movement. While walking and cycling use the least amount of space for movement and storage, and have the greatest flexibility, the comfort and safety of these modes is heavily influenced by the amount of space available to them.

Operational envelope for different users and vehicles.

Speed of Movement

Vehicle speed is a key risk factor in road traffic injuries and death. High-impact speeds drastically increase the risk of severe injury or death in the event of a crash. People moving at low speeds have more time to observe the street around them, have more reaction time, and have very short reaction distances. Street design, human perception and comfort, and the activity of other people all impact moving and operating speeds.

Average speeds for different users and vehicles.

Travel Time and Distance

Understanding how far a person can travel in 10 minutes provides a basic measure of the number of destinations easily available to them. A person walking in a city center has access to many more destinations than a person driving in a low-density setting. Planning around 5-, 10-, and 15-minute distances, especially for transit stops and neighborhood cycle and walking networks, can help inform the potential of a street to become an important part of the active transportation network.

Average distance traveled by different users and vehicles in 10 minutes.

Mass and Vulnerability

Mass plays a very prominent role in the event of a crash. When a heavy vehicle collides with a lighter vehicle, the occupants of the light vehicle are far more at risk of sustaining severe injury. Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists have the greatest risk of severe injury when colliding with a motor vehicle and are commonly referred to as vulnerable users. Compared with other street users, this group is particularly exposed to injury as they are not protected by a vehicle shell.

Space Occupied by 50 People

While a bus needs three times as much space as a car, its carrying capacity per lane is unrivaled among other on-street modes. As land in urban areas becomes increasingly scarce, use the space within the street most efficiently to serve the largest number of people.


Space Occupied by Uses, Modes, and People in a Given Area

Analyze the way street designs allocate space among different users in order to support a variety of activities and modes of transportation.
Consider how the same 3 m x 25 m strip can be used for various uses and by different numbers of people.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.

A Variety of Street Users

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A Variety of Street Users