Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares

Institute of Transportation Engineers Report

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This report has been developed in response to widespread interest for improving both mobility choices and community character through a commitment to creating and enhancing walkable communities. Many agencies will work toward these goals using the concepts and principles in this report to ensure the users, community and other key factors are considered in the planning and design processes used to develop walkable urban thoroughfares.

Traditionally, through thousands of years of human settlement, urban streets have performed multiple functions. Mobility was one of the functions, but economic and social functions were important as well. Retail and social transactions have occurred along most urban thoroughfares throughout history. It is only in the 20th century that streets were designed to separate the mobility function from the economic and social functions. This report is intended to facilitate the restoration of the complex multiple functions of urban streets. It provides guidance for the design of walkable urban thoroughfares in places that currently support the mode of walking and in places where the community desires to provide a more walkable thoroughfare, and the context to support them in the future.

While the concepts and principles of context sensitive solutions (CSS) are applicable to all types of transportation facilities, this report focuses on applying the concepts and principles in the planning and design of urban thoroughfares—facilities commonly designated by the conventional functional classifications of arterials and collectors. Freeways, expressways and local streets are not covered in this report. The following chapters emphasize thoroughfares in “walkable communities”—compact, pedestrian-scaled villages, neighborhoods, town centers, urban centers, urban cores and other areas where walking, bicycling and transit are encouraged. Practitioners working on places and thoroughfares that do not completely fit within this report’s definition of walkable urban thoroughfares may also find this guidance useful in gaining an understanding of the flexibility that is inherent in the “Green Book”—the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO’s) Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets (AASHTO, 2004a).

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