Planners and Architects

Redesign Arterial Streets for Pedestrians

Arterial streets, typically multilane thoroughfares designed to speed cars from one destination to another, are often hazardous to people on foot. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign found that 60% of pedestrian deaths in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut took place on arterial roadways. Redesigning arterial streets for pedestrians involves adapting roadway geometry (including reducing or narrowing travel lanes), traffic-signal plans, and adjacent land uses of multilane thoroughfares to better accommodate non-automobile uses and create a safer, pedestrian-friendly environment.

  • Interest communities and cities in redesign possibilities with a public visioning meeting, design charette, or design competition
  • Work with business improvement districts; since pedestrian-friendly environments see higher retail profits, use funds for street restructuring
  • Create mid-block neckdowns and crosswalks
  • Create safe crossings with signals or medians
  • Narrow roadways wherever traffic volumes and safety allow
  • Build pedestrian crossing islands
  • Widen medians into transit stops and/or landscape the median
  • Widen sidewalks where needed or desired
  • Plant street trees to act as a buffer between pedestrians and traffic
  • Construct a buffered bicycle path or shareduse greenway
  • Consolidate and minimize the number of driveways to reduce turning conflicts
  • Program temporary uses in parking lots at offpeak hours
  • Create pocket parks in open or vacant space between retail buildings
  • Connect pocket parks on one side of the street to the other through crosswalks, midblock chokes, and medians
  • Rezone adjacent land uses for denser development
  • Improves safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers
  • Creates a unique local identity to compete with malls and big-box retail
  • Increases economic activity through quality public environment
  • Encourages active lifestyles through better walking and cycling infrastructure
  • Increases property values
  • Arterial roads are often managed by multiple jurisdictions along their length, which complicates funding as well as design and decision processes
  • Changing driving behavior to reduce speeding and increase yielding to pedestrians on car-oriented thoroughfares is a challenge
  • Accommodating safety redesigns with vehicle volumes
Where to Use It
  • Arterial roads with transit stops and limited walking infrastructure
  • Arterial roads lined by retail
Professional Consensus
  • Transportation for America, a national coalition for transportation reform, analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Its 2011 Dangerous by Design report revealed that more than 52% of the 47,067 pedestrians killed over a 10-year period died on principal or minor arterial roads. Nearly 60% of the 34,260 pedestrian deaths in urban areas occurred on arterial roads.  The report cited that streets that were safest for pedestrians were also safest for drivers and recommended retrofitting high-crash roads for safety.  The MAP 21 federal transportation bill identifies pedestrian and bicycle crashes as part of the mandatory Highway Safety Improvement Program.
  • Endorsed within Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach, a guidebook published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Congress for the New Urbanism

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.