Jeff Speck published an excellent piece today about boulevards and their utility in walkable urban neighborhoods. True boulevards, as contrasted with stroads that are boulevards-in-name-only (BINOs? looking at you, Okeechobee “Boulevard”), are a time-tested solution to moving lots of traffic in urban areas while also creating a safe and people-friendly environment in the sidewalk space. Some of the most beloved streets in Europe are boulevards as well as some good examples in the United States like Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.
Speck points out the successful track record of boulevards in creating valuable places while moving plenty of traffic, and asks the obvious question: Why aren’t we designing more of our urban arterials like boulevards to achieve their much better outcomes? We have the precedents to do so.
Picture in your mind a classic large urban street, one that will attract pedestrians while also moving a lot of traffic. Perhaps you are imagining Paris’s Avenue Marceau, Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia, or Washington’s K Street? Now look at the image below….
… perhaps of the greatest concern, is the issue of precedent. While there exist a growing number of locations in America with street configurations like this one, it is impossible to name one with street life. Swoopy configurations like this design are found mostly in suburban drive-only locations out by the mall, not in cities. If no attractive place can be found with a similar configuration, then a design should not pass the street-planning smell test.
This image from Mattias Leyrer comes to mind. Read Speck’s excellent article and let’s start building boulevards that enhance placemaking and support the city, rather than eviscerating it.
In case you missed it: Here are some of our past writings on boulevards written by none other than Baron Haussmann.
- American Multiway Boulevard examples
- County Engineer George Webb: Okeechobee Boulevard to be reconfigured to multiway boulevard
- Australian Avenue alternative
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