Street Design and
1414 K St., Suite 600 Sacramento, CA 95814-3966
T (916) 448-1198 F (916) 448-8246 www.lgc.org
The good: A marked pedestrian crossing with bulbout.
The bad: Too many lanes, no protection for people.
The ugly: No trees, no sidewalks, one helpless pedestrian.
When your community considers the use of traffic calming
measures to add safety and pedestrian features to existing
streets, smart-growth street design approaches should
be structured to get things right in the first place. This fact sheet,
which summarizes good street design strategies and tools, is
intended for emergency response officials involved in reviewing
new developments that are different from conventional, post-war
This is not uncharted territory. In a sense, smart growth is about
going back to street designs that were once the norm. Typical
street designs from colonial times to World War II featured short
blocks, few dead-end or cul-de-sac streets, pavement as narrow
as 20 feet, vertical curbs, small curb radii at corners, sidewalks
everywhere, planting strips and often alleys.
Beginning in the late 1940’s, and accelerating through the post-
war suburban boom, streets took on a radically different character.
The emphasis was on moving cars efficiently, and less about
designing a public environment that met many needs, including
those of pedestrians and bicyclists.
Compared with pre-war designs, conventional suburban streets
have the following characteristics:
Wider pavement widths.
A “super-grid” pattern with local streets
within the superblocks.
Gently curving streets.
Rolled curbs with a much wider radius at corners.
Infrequent or inadequate sidewalks.
Little attention to non-motorized travel.
This street pattern fit well with land use patterns where single-
family residential, apartments, employment and shopping uses
were all segregated from each other in large, single-use districts
connected with a near-expressway supergrid.