Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

Setting a Project Vision


Driving extensive change in the process of street design globally requires setting a clear and strong vision for every street project worldwide.


A clear vision can provide a sense of direction for stakeholders and ensure that designs support the larger social, economic, and environmental goals of each neighborhood. A balance of technical expertise, global best practices, and input from local residents and business owners can increase support for the project and the sense of ownership in a shared vision.

Use the shared vision as a base to show what is possible and to test new ideas. Inspire participants to achieve collective goals, define actionable steps, and work strategically toward a coordinated outcome.

Having a shared vision can help maintain clear direction when projects and processes face challenges of increased complexity.

Cities adapt and change over time, so it is important to ensure a future vision that is flexible and robust in the face of growth, development, unforeseen decline, and climate change challenges.

Who Can Set Vision?

Local, Regional, and National Government Officials

  • Demonstrate leadership by articulating and communicating clear, achievable, and shared goals.
  • Allocate funding and resources to support implementation.
  • Set precedents by achieving high-quality standards and showing what is possible.
  • Work across departments to identify and realize synergies and mutual benefits from great street design.
  • Enact supportive policies that simplify processes and change outdated practices.

Private Practitioners

  • Visualize future visions in presented plans, projects, and competitions.
  • Identify local codes, regulations, and policies that act as impediments to best-practice street design.
  • Complete best-practice research and bring forward relevant precedents.
  • Create best-practice streets through project implementation.

Community Advocates

  • Ask for street designs that better function for all users.
  • Demand a change of current street design practices to ones that support safe and equitable access for everyone.
  • Communicate and advocate for identified priorities, and build community support around a future vision for your neighborhood.

Where to Start

Identify actionable steps and interim targets toward achieving a shared vision. Start with project elements that have clear community and political support, where the demonstrated need is the greatest, or the potential impact is the strongest.

Look, Listen, and Learn
Listen to what people have to say about an area; many of them use the streets every day and know them more intimately than other stakeholders. Use various transportation modes when doing field work to consider different user experiences. Identify how areas within the project site function differently. Identify best practices from other places and ask how they might be relevant if adapted to the local context.

Engage relevant agencies and local organizations to develop a shared project vision. Understand how they shape and use streets and what matters most to them. Host workshops and meetings, and engage many groups to participate in the process.

Challenge Existing Perspectives
Be bold in questioning existing perspectives, practices, and procedures that shape streets. These have led to the current existing conditions and a different future will require different processes.

Identify Shared Goals
Set the goals and targets together. Allow flexibility for streets to adapt and change over time while still allowing the goals to be relevant.

Set Actions and Timelines
Be specific about what you want to achieve. Provide clear shortand medium-term targets that allow the shared vision to be realized.

Foster and create new partnerships in which different groups can share resources, stay informed, and work together toward shared visions.

Determine Constraints
Balance the big-picture goals with an understanding of what is realistic given the existing constraints, practices, procedures, and budgets.

Identify Metrics
Identify metrics relevant to the project vision and use these to set goals and targets.

Share the action plan for the project and the intended steps and timelines in place to achieve it. Develop a communication strategy to keep the public informed so that they can be a part of the process of achieving change.

Start Now
Find somewhere to start to demonstrate quick wins and achievable change in order to build momentum and trust. Consider pilot, temporary, or interim solutions as a first step.

Identify Priorities to Shape the Vision

Based on Need

  • Opportunities: To help a city become more equitable, target investment in areas of need within the project, based on factors such as income, commute time, congestion, public health challenges, and lack of safe access to walking, cycling, or public transport.
  • Recommendation: Map traffic crashes and fatalities geographically and identify areas where these cluster as targets or hotspots. Overlap income levels and transit maps geographically to identify where gaps exist for transit service. Work with communities, local health departments, and academic institutions to identify neighborhoods facing public health and environmental challenges.

Based on Destination

  • Opportunities: Identify important destinations where people gather on a daily basis, such as schools, markets, open spaces, commercial corridors, and transit hubs as they can present valuable sites for street reconstruction and traffic calming.
  • Recommendation: Map key city destinations in the project area. Identify potential locations for public transit stops, car share or bike share stations, and other facilities that support sustainable mobility around these destinations. Discuss and analyze the state of repair of sidewalks, cycle tracks, and transit stops in these areas, while noting the provision of street trees, seating, lighting, and other elements that support a safe and healthy street environment.

To Align with Other Projects

  • Opportunities: When projects are funded and already in progress, they present opportunities to ensure that street designs align with larger vision goals.
  • Recommendation: Identify projects and programs that already have political, community, and financial support, and streets that are already scheduled for regular or upcoming maintenance and reconstruction. Leverage these to support and enhance the project vision.

To Attract Other Investment

  • Opportunities: Improved transportation infrastructure can proactively catalyze other investments. Strategically attracting public and private developments to certain areas of a city supports compact and sustainable development patterns and prioritizes them over areas where residents and workers rely on private vehicles.
  • Recommendation: Identify the anticipated growth rate in the project area to inform the level of investment required to accommodate future street users in a sustainable development pattern. Align with land use and density goals to select limited geographic areas along existing or new transit lines that support growth in a compact form, protecting natural resources.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.

Communication and Engagement

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Communication and Engagement