York Urbanist

Street Cross Sections

Downtown streets must be beautiful to attract patrons.  For many years, engineering standards directed their construction, but today creativity has crept into the design of streetscapes.  This poses challenges for already engineered, functional streets.  What we see are the aboveground facilities of pavement, benches and street lamps. It is what lurks below that drives what will be seen above.

Without dismissing the need to have separated watermains, sewers, gas and electrical conduits, there remain options for a green and designed aboveground amenity space. Pavement patterns, lamp colour and form, building facades all may change appearance. But function of the street may be altered as well without changing the infrastructure beneath the pavement. Refer to http://yorkurbanist.com/what-is-urban-design/integrated-streets/ for a demonstration of radical streetscape approaches in Europe.  If curbs must remain, must they be straight? Do streetlights require linear placement? Can facades be altered to claim usable space in the street, such as a cafe?

To follow strict engineering standards is to make maintenance in the future easy.  Changing those standards takes more creativity for not only capital construction but also operations.  In a way, the future of a creative design will enhance the jobs of those maintaining the streets in the coming years.  This is not a detriment! Following is a typical street cross section.

Mobility is a part of any road cross-section.  Not everyone drives. Accommodating cyclists and pedestrians in the street cross-section is an economic benefit and, although increasing the cost of pavement, there is a balancing revenue generation (supported by our review of Economics of Trails).  Houston added an unexpected element to the street – Water.  This creative design element, albeit extreme, will be remembered for its unexpected presence.  Let us not limit ourselves to the engineering standards of the 1900′s. There are many ways to create a memorable and creative street.