When it is neither a road nor a street, it serves no one well

Stroad: Noun. Portmanteau of “street” and “road”: it describes a street, er, road, built for high-speed, but with multiple access points. Excessive width is a common feature. A common feature in suburbia, especially along commercial strips. Unsafe at any speed, their extreme width and straightness paradoxically induces speeding. Somewhat more neutral than synonymous traffic sewer. ~ Urban Dictionary

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We’ve built a 45 mile per hour world, one that moves too slow to be efficient yet too fast to provide a platform for value.”

With this lead-in (45-mile World~ST), Strong Town’s author and professional Engineer, Charles Marohn introduces his concept of the Stroad. A road/street hybrid that…

…functions neither as a road that moves people quickly between two places nor as a street that provides a platform for capturing value. As such, it is the most financially unproductive type of transportation corridor that we can build; it costs a ton but financially yields very little return for the governments that must pay to maintain them.

And these roads/streets stroads, built to Forgive and Forget (ST), dominate communities. In Grand Traverse, stroads encircle and divide neighborhoods. South Airport Rd. is certainly one. Garfield Ave., the 4-lane section of 8th St., the trunk-lines running through the City (Division St., Grandview Parkway, East Front, Munson) are others. Grelickville has M-22 and Acme has M-31/M-72. These are all corridors where speeds are set between 30-55 and designed to easily handle, if not encourage, 10-15 mph faster; design standards pulled from highway guidelines, not neighborhood guidelines. As Marohn writes:

From a design standpoint, a STROAD is created when we misapply to local transportation corridors the decades of wisdom we have gained from experimentation on highway design and construction techniques. In my professional opinion, it is institutionalized malpractice.

Safety for whom?

Those highway design standards are treatments meant to minimize fatal consequences for drivers when they may make mistakes, often associated with high-speeds. These treatments create wide lanes (12-15 ft), straightened curves, turn-lanes, and call for streetscaping best used on expressways than through communities. For example, we need street trees in the tree lawns of our neighborhoods, but it is a fight to have them planted along these corridors. We need them because they provide critical separation between people and passing cars and they help slow the flow of that traffic. Unfortunately, most stroad agencies see them has fatal hazards–for people in cars going too fast for conditions (MW) not as life saving treatments for pedestrians.

Strong Town’s stroad (TedX) concept is required material for anyone interested in engaging and representing on public processes to change the above corridors. The Division Streets (MW) and Acme Corridors in our communities will not substantially improve if the recommendations are simply left to engineers–however well-intentioned those good people may be (to be clear, we need the engineers, just not engineers working in silos cut off from the rest of us).

At all points of discussions on these corridors, community emphasis needs to be on the designing of these places as streets that serve a multitude of needs (serving people on foot, wheel and motor) and a primary need of making them streets (feeding us economically and socially). They need to be streets for safety as much as for the economic development of the community. The current corridor study (Ticker) in Traverse City was primarily undertaken because 14th, Front, 8th and Garfield are underperforming as economic corridors. Marohn would likely draw a direct connection to them being stroads rather than streets:

The value of a street comes from its ability to support land use patterns that create capturable value. The street with the highest value is the one that creates the greatest amount of tax revenue with the least amount of public expense over multiple life cycles. If we want to maximize the value of a street, we design it in such a way that it supports an adjacent development pattern that is financially resilient, architecturally timeless and socially enduring.

Amen. Let’s see some streets. 

For a more comprehensive introduction to The Stroad, Marohn recently introduced the concept with a Ted Talk:

Related Strong Town Articles: 

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The Pedestrian Ninjas need your help…thank you.

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