From The Department of Worst Practices: Two-lane stroads

MLewyn's picture
two lane stroad

One phrase that has become common in transportation planning circles is "stroad"- a street that is oriented towards cars (like a major road) but is full of intersections (like a traditional, more pedestrian-oriented street) and thus doesn't function well as either a street or a road.  When I think of a stroad, I think of six-to-eight lane streets like San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville, or Queens Boulevard in Queens.

But under the wrong conditions, even a two-lane street can function almost as badly as a stroad.  My parents in Atlanta live near Mt. Paran Road, a two-lane street that functions like a high-speed road for three reasons.  First, the absence of sidewalks scares off pedestrians- especially since many residences are surrounded by woods or bushes rather than by more walkable lawns.  Second, despite its curves, the street is just straight enough and wide enough to accommodate 40-45 mph traffic.  Third, this part of the city lacks a grid of east-west streets, so Mt. Paran and two or three similar streets have become the easiest way to get from the western edge of the city's affluent northside to north-south streets further east. As a result, Mt. Paran combines speed and congestion, much like a true stroad.  And when it is congested, a driver feels tremendous peer pressure to drive as fast as possible, because he or she is part of a long line of cars that cannot switch into another lane. 

What can be done about two-lane stroads?  I'm not sure.  Sidewalks would be a major improvement; given the difficulty of getting anywhere nearby without driving on Mount Paran, I'm not sure traffic calming would be politically feasible.  But planners of future neighborhoods can certainly learn something from the difficulties of streets like Mount Paran: the best way to avoid turning residential streets into de facto regional arterials is to build a grid of streets that accommodate both drivers and pedestrians more effectively.  

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