Approaching a new or upgraded street design often starts with creating space for all desired transportation modes. Creating street zones in roadways for pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles (including public transit) can be a challenge in narrow corridors. Deciding when and where these priority street elements should exist, their minimum and preferred widths, and other design elements that can or should be included require coordination and diligent planning.
Part of the planning starts with assigning street designations for each roadway in the plan. For example, mixed-use streets have access to vehicles, people, parkland, commerce, and public transportation. This is contrasted with residential and green-style parkways that offer more opportunities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and landscaping. Other considerations for each street designation include lane widths, right-of-way allocations, and typical traffic volume.
Another challenge in achieving balance is where to place the pedestrian zone (sometimes called the public realm) in relation to other street elements including the roadway, parking, greenspace, and frontage, i.e., shops and homes along the street. Another frequent request of smart street planners is to incorporate more greenery into our communities, both for aesthetics and cleaner air. The increased shade opportunities are also recognized as a benefit to provide relief to citizens in extreme heat conditions.
Takeaway: We need to balance the needs of disparate multimodal stakeholders using more technology-driven and innovative design and planning systems.