Getting started on pedestrian friendly streets

Using the A/B grid to prioritize and focus efforts on pedestrian streets.

Many communities have a street network that is not designed for pedestrians. The grid may exist but the streets are too wide and traffic is too fast. So how do communities with tight budgets that want to create streets for pedestrian use get started?

The first step is recognizing not every street has to be retrofitted to a pedestrian space. Streets can be classified into those designed as pedestrian oriented or A streets and those designed primarily for vehicles which are called B streets. A streets are home to places for people to walk to with wide sidewalks, street parking and street furnishings. The form encloses the street and the uses are aimed at people. B streets are designed for the through movement of traffic and the form does not enclose the space. The allowed and planned for uses include auto oriented uses such as drive-throughs, auto service and other car based commercial activity.

When these two types of roads intersect the pedestrian based A street design takes precedence at the intersection. This allows for a seamless pedestrian environment along the type A street. One fact to keep in mind is these streets should both have the same design standards as far as the travel lanes, it is the surrounding form that distinguishes them.

Both of these streets comprise grids. The A grid is for pedestrian movement and access and the B grid is for vehicle movement. The A/B grid allows for all uses to exist in a community with those that have pedestrian form and use on the A grid and those with form and use not suitable for pedestrians to be on the B grid. Communities can use this system as a form of triage to assign these standards to alternating thoroughfares. This somewhat emulates a street and alley system or front streets and back streets. It creates streets with high pedestrian standards and low pedestrian standards rather than compromise all streets.

This system requires calibration of the local street network to surrounding zoning. For more information on street standards and placemaking in your community, contact a Michigan State University Extension Land Use educator.

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