Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

Existing Conditions

Laneways are generally lined by continuous buildings on both sides, creating a strong sense of enclosure.

Commercial laneways are typically activated by small-scale retail, workshops, galleries, cafés, or restaurants. Rents for these spaces are initially low, inviting new businesses to move in and attracting customers to the space.

They are often in close proximity to larger central streets or public spaces, and offer convenient access to key

They provide beneficial shortcuts for pedestrians traversing large city blocks, increasing the overall permeability of the city.

Residential laneways may be faced by garages and limited residential access. Alleys and laneways may be important for local utilities and waste collection, but may be poorly lit and trafficked, creating an unsafe atmosphere for pedestrians.

Design Guidance

Increase the frontage area available for businesses in the city and create intimate environments by transforming
laneways and alleys with active ground floor uses.

Each lane must be assessed and designed on a case-by-case basis to ensure that loading and other services
can be accommodated when needed.

If vehicles are given access, limit travel speed to 10 km/h.

Maintain an accessible clear path of 3.5 m for emergency vehicle access. Permanent furniture may be placed along
building edges, or located at the center of the lane, while maintaining a clear path along the buildings. Movable furniture can be placed in the emergency access path so long as they do not impede necessary but infrequent movements. Plan for local emergency access, and provide adjacent through routes. See: Designing for Freight and Service Operators.

Provide cycle parking and cycle-share facilities in the immediate surroundings of the laneway.

Prohibit parking in laneways except under special circumstances.

Restrict access for loading and deliveries to early morning and late evening when pedestrian activity is lower.

Use lighting to shape the character and experience of the space while providing a safe environment at all hours.

Schedule regular maintenance and management to ensure that the laneway remains clean and free of obstacles.

Design pavement slope to assure efficient drainage of primary pedestrian areas.1

Where a laneway meets a higher-traffic street, provide raised pedestrian crossings to suit the context, street size, and travel speeds.2 See: Pedestrian Crossings.


1. Boffa Miskell Limited, Central City Lanes Report: Lanes Design Guide (Christchurch: Christchurch City Council, 2006).

2. The San Francisco Better Streets Plan considers raised crosswalks at alleyways and shared public ways a standard treatment.
Varat, Adam, & Cristina Olea, San Francisco Better Streets Plan (San Francisco, CA: SF Planning Department and Municipal Transportation Agency: 2012), 53.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.

Example 2: 10 m

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Example 2: 10 m