Retrofit Street, Walking, and Bicycle Connections into Existing Suburbs

The construction of new street, bicycle, and/or pedestrians connections between existing streets on municipal land or private property.

  • Finish connecting on existing rights-of-way paired with infrastructure improvements for community cooperation
  • Investigate potential utility easements, alleyways, and planned streets that were never constructed as potential rights-of-way for connections
  • Purchase private land lots, construct the desired street, sidewalk, or multiuse path, and then resell the property
  • Line up political support
  • Be the first to frame the discussion about street/pedestrian/bicycle connectivity
  • Anticipate potential arguments and sources of resistance, and address them from the outset through a variety of ways, including:
    • Talking points in traditional and social media outreach
    • Proactive stakeholder meetings with potential opponents
    • Talking points in public-education campaign material
  • Contextualize local opposition through broad-based surveys revealing the general perspective of area residents. Work with local politicians or community partners to survey a large community base
  • Build in flexibility in the project’s scope and timeline to accommodate public concerns
  • Create and articulate specific benefits for neighborhoods both “upstream” and “downstream” of a proposed street link.
  • Provides shorter, more direct routes between destinations, which encourages walking and cycling as a means of transportation
  • Reduces vehicle speeds and severity of accidents
  • Increases mobility options for kids and families
  • Helps keep local trips on local streets rather than clogging arterial roads and highways
  • Provides route alternatives to drivers to avoid congestion and construction delays • Reduces travel distances and vehicle miles traveled
  • Improves emergency-response times
  • Allows for more efficient utility connections
  • Creates efficient trash and recycling routes
  • Facilitates bus-route and transit planning
  • Educating the public about the need for and benefits of frequent street connections
  • Funding and logistics for procuring the necessary right-of-way
  • Ensuring connections are accessible to people with disabilities
Where to Use It
  • Subdivision stub streets that were planned as through-streets and approved by the local government but never completed
  • Potential street connections that would link important land uses, such as residential neighborhoods to elementary schools
  • Potential street connections that would improve access to transit or greenways
  • For street connectivity:
    • Those that would divert traffic from congested streets or intersections
    • Those that would significantly reduce driving distances for residents
  • For pedestrian or bicycle connectivity:
    • Those that would significantly reduce the walking/cycling distance to reach important land use destinations
    • Those that would significantly reduce the walking/cycling distance to reach existing pedestrian and/or bicycle networks
Professional Consensus
  • Endorsed by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center1
  • Sprawl Retrofit strategy endorsed by the Congress for the New Urbanism2
  • In the absence of official endorsements from national associations or governments, cities are turning to best practices employed by other municipalities

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