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The NACTO Urban Street Design Guide shows how streets of every size can be reimagined and reoriented to prioritize safe driving and transit, biking, walking, and public activity. Unlike older, more conservative engineering manuals, this design guide emphasizes the core principle that urban streets are public places and have a larger role to play in communities than solely being conduits for traffic.

The well-illustrated guide offers blueprints of street design from multiple perspectives, from the bird’s eye view to granular details. Case studies from around the country clearly show how to implement best practices, as well as provide guidance for customizing design applications to a city’s unique needs. Urban Street Design Guide outlines five goals and tenets of world-class street design:

• Streets are public spaces. Streets play a much larger role in the public life of cities and communities than just thoroughfares for traffic.
• Great streets are great for business. Well-designed streets generate higher revenues for businesses and higher values for homeowners.
• Design for safety. Traffic engineers can and should design streets where people walking, parking, shopping, bicycling, working, and driving can cross paths safely.
• Streets can be changed. Transportation engineers can work flexibly within the building envelope of a street. Many city streets were created in a different era and need to be reconfigured to meet new needs.
• Act now! Implement projects quickly using temporary materials to help inform public decision making.

Elaborating on these fundamental principles, the guide offers substantive direction for cities seeking to improve street design to create more inclusive, multi-modal urban environments. It is an exceptional resource for redesigning streets to serve the needs of 21st century cities, whose residents and visitors demand a variety of transportation options, safer streets, and vibrant community life.




Streets are the lifeblood of our communities and the foundation of our urban economies. They make up more than 80 percent of all public space in cities and have the potential to foster business activity, serve as a front yard for residents, and provide a safe place for people to get around, whether on foot, by bicycle, car, or transit. The vitality of urban life demands a design approach sensitive to the multifaceted role streets play in our cities.

Street Design Elements

The elements that make up city streets, from sidewalks to travel lanes to transit stops, all vie for space within a limited right-of-way. Transportation planners and engineers can use this toolbox to optimize the benefits the community receives from its streets.

Interim Design Strategies

With limited funding streams, complex approval and regulatory processes, and lengthy construction timetables, cities are often challenged to deliver the results that communities demand as quickly as they would like. Interim design strategies are tools and tactics that cities can use to improve their roadways and public spaces in the near term. They include low-cost, interim materials, new public amenities, and creative partnerships with local stakeholders, which together enable faster project delivery and more flexible and responsive design.


For city streets to meet the needs and demands of everyone using them, intersections—both large and small—need to function as safely and efficiently as possible. Good intersection design, however, goes beyond making streets safer. Well-designed intersections use street space to bring people together and invigorate a city, while making traffic more intuitive, seamless, and predictable for those passing through.

Intersection Design Elements

Intersections are a critical aspect of street design, the point where motorist, bicycle, and pedestrian movements converge. Successful intersection design addresses all mobility and safety goals as well as opportunities to enhance the public realm. This section explores intersection design and operation, from signal timing to crosswalks, and investigates each concept as it relates to citywide goals for safety, mobility, and more vibrant, accessible public spaces.

Design Controls

At the outset of any redesign or reconstruction, designers set forth key criteria that govern the ensuing design of the street. These parameters, referred to here as “design controls,” critically shape design decisions.


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