How to Design Livable Streets


It’s no secret that Good produces the best graphics to illustrate the most current and important points.  They tend to go viral and get passed around.  I like their popular graphic on vampire energy and guide to prefab constructionGood has a knack for distilling complex information, and I think their new guide to livable streets is worth reading.  In it, they explain ten ways to redesign and transform streets to become livable:

  1. Allow street vendors
  2. Provide pedestrian street lamps
  3. Install curb extensions at crosswalks
  4. Create dedicated bus lanes
  5. Create dedicated bike lanes
  6. Install raised, textured crosswalks
  7. Adjust street lights to give lead to pedestrians
  8. Install bollards at intersections
  9. Nurture street trees and plantings
  10. Use speeds bumps where necessary

Growing up in Texas, I never really had experience with urban streets.  My suburban street was quiet and livable, although when young, I almost planted my bike directly into the side of a cautiously moving car.  But upon visiting Washington D.C., I gained a new appreciation for livable streets – the sidewalks are huge and everyone walks on them.

Which makes me think that livable for one street may not be livable for another.  However, with increasing population density and effective mass transportation, planning for livable streets is critical.  Any other ideas for making streets livable?

Photo credit: Good.

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  • John

    “Any other ideas for making streets livable?”

    Don’t let women drive on them.

  • Anonymous

    For drivers, large illuminated overhead signs at intersections (and before, if space permits), showing the cross-street name, including the range of building numbers.

  • Portland Real Estate

    Love the post. I live in Portland where we have bikers and walkers everywhere. We like to think of ourselves as a very pedestrian and biker friendly city. One of the best improvements that we have made around here is the bike lanes everywhere, and many of them are painted a special attention grabbing lime green. The lime green color for the bike lanes sounds strange, but honestly it makes you pay more attention to the lanes and the people in them when you are behind the wheel of a car. I feel much more comfortable with the lanes there, because I know that I am not endangering or inconveniencing the bikers that are sharing the road with me.

  • Andrew Stone

    I have a garage on the alley and everyday when I leave the house I gingerly creep ever so slowly from the alley, over the sidewalk and to the street. Today, I was creeping and looking over the neighbors bushes for people walking down the sidewalk. I see no-one so I creep up the the street to be faced with large amounts of traffic coming both ways. So there I sit blocking the sidewalk when A bicyclist comes racing down the sidewalk and flips me off as he passes in front of my car slightly on to the street and back on to the sidewalk. Of course he was in front of me during the only window of opportunity to get on to the street. So I wait.

    So with that long story that has no point, I would love to see a system to notify drivers of people approaching an alley exit as they walk down the sidewalk and a system to notify walkers of drivers as they approach the alley exit.

  • JH

    Bus lanes would be so helpful in LA. Then again, all of these things would. I would say a good idea is to plan strip malls and shopping districts with like-minded business or a cross-section of businesses, so that you don’t have to drive from strip mall to strip mall to get things done, i.e., a post office, bank, grocery store, drug store, cafe, coffee shop, hairdresser, dry cleaners, etc. There are very few “town centers” that have all of these things in one clump.

    And of course, plentiful parking and cheap parking meters would encourage people to get out and walk. Or…actually, 60% of our country is overweight so maybe not.

  • fiona

    Chelsea and kensington high street optimises the “less is more” approach with style… if roads can have style?

  • Sikantis

    I like you list to make streets livable. The next step would be to make the whole city more livable, greener. There are even ideas to install solar power over parking lots to generate energy, to lighten up the parking lot and to reduce light pollution in the night.

  • Cate Ferguson

    These are all great ideas. I love the idea of really slowing the traffic down (outside of main road areas) and even closing off a block or two to make them even more people friendly. The graphic is fantastic and what I like most about it is that everyone is catered for… even nature – like to see more of that.

  • DG

    pervious pavers from

  • New York Real Estate

    Growing up in New York City, I gotta say that I became really spoiled with the things you mentioned in your list. Right now, I’m living with my girlfriend in Indiana and it’s like living in another world. The town shes lives in doesn’t really cater to pedestrians because, unlike NYC, about 98% of people drive in Indiana — EVEN in the parts that DO have decent public transportation.

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