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Thread: Looking for examples of narrow streets

  1. #1
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    Looking for examples of narrow streets

    I am an intern researching road standards. Does anyone know of examples of areas(preferably in California) with sub-standard road widths (less than 20 feet wide)? I would also appreciate any information regarding ongoing efforts to impose these narrower road standards.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Only places I've seen like that in CA are in Orange County; Balboa Island and Huntington Beach. These are in some very tight urbanized areas though.

    Not knowing the context this is hard to give suggestions about. For example, is this for existing rights of way or for new streets?

    You also need to address the type of traffic you expect to get on these streets. For example, large trucks or buses need a bigger turning radii. In many cases, you may run into resistence from first responders or DPWs who might hav conserns ranging from safety to where to dump the snow (though in most parts of CA, this is not much of an issue).
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Not necessarily an example from California, but there are good context-based road standards in the default SmartCode (http://www.smartcodecentral.org/smartfilesv9_2.html).

    Speaking from both personal experience and those of many other planners, the biggest barrier to narrower streets are fire departments. There's several threads on Cyburbia about the subject. Also check out the Emergency Response and Street Design Initiative by the Congress for the New Urbanism (http://www.cnu.org/emergencyresponse). The ERSD section of the CNU site is packed with helpful guides, model ordinances, and the like.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    DetroitPlanner: Thanks for letting me know about Huntington Beach and Balboa Island. Neither one's website had exact up to date standards so I will have to wait to get in touch with them when the offices open after the new year.


    What I am really looking for is a place with under 20 foot wide minimum paved width standards for new streets, that fire trucks and solid waste trucks can use as well. I don't know if this exists.

    What is the best way to look up different cities' standards? Many municipal codes refer to prior codes which are not accessable on the web

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I am not certain but I think Balboa is part of a larger municipality. Downtown Laguna Beach is also very tight and mixed use. In terms of standards? The only standards I can think of are based on AASHTO and refer to federal-aid roadways. Transportation is part of a system that does not stay the same roads are added and refined all the time based upon need. For example some roads are widened, but others are narrowed to allow for more pedestrians.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Intern1 View post
    What is the best way to look up different cities' standards? Many municipal codes refer to prior codes which are not accessable on the web
    Street width standards, if you're lucky, will often be in a community's subdivision regulations. They may be in design standards; not the kind of design standards we planners work with, but those dictating pavement materials and thickness, cross-sections, and so on, adopted by a community and used by civil engineers. Such design standards are less likely to be online than subdivision regs, but it;'s not unheard of.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    maudit anglais
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    I'm all for reduced pavement widths but really, 20' (6 m) is already plenty narrow. Any narrower and two-way traffic will have problems.

    I don't know about California, but in my jurisdiction the building code mandates minimum 6 m clear pavement width for emergency access.

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    Berkeley and Belvedere Narrow Roads

    I just read that both Berkeley, CA and Belvedere, CA have streets with less than 20 foot clear width. In Berkeley, they are old roads in highly desirable neighborhoods in the hills. Belvedere is a wealthy community in Marin County with very little traffic.
    Anyone have information about the ability of Fire and waste collection vehicles to operate in these areas?

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    newport, RI has some

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    Cyburbian
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    Looking at the interior streets on Balboa Island on Google Earth, they seem to measure out at about 18' and the alleys look to be about 12'. However, having grown up and lived in this area of Southern California for many years and driven around on Balboa Island, the streets are hard to drive on because they are so narrow. You just don't feel like you have enough room to navigate around the town without tearing off your side mirrors.

    The current Uniform Fire Code requires a clear width driving area of 20 feet. This is why most cities have chosen to have neighborhood streets face of curb to face of curb width to be at least 28 feet to allow street parking in neighborhoods. I would be surprised to find any city that would approve a street that is less than 20 feet today. Its like asking for a law suit where fire or medical vehicles couldn't get to through a neighborhood in the event of an emergency.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    I visited a new development (gated community) in Fresno, CA with tiny streets. They were all one way, and no street parking....I'd guess 15 feet wide at most. The satellite images online are outdated and do not show it.

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    Cyburbian
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    Be sure to check out Holland's pedestrian and auto safety standards. They are, by far, the highest in the world. If you're going to be doing urban planning (especially considering streets that narrow), you really should get a good primer on turbo roundabouts, crosswalk placement (5-10 meters back from the intersection is ideal), castling, traffic calming, brick pavers, turning radii, on street parking considerations, etc. All of these things can affect safety. Make drivers too irate, and they start taking chances and cutting corners.

    With some key design decisions, safety has to take precedence.

    I would recommend doing a search for CROW, roundabout, pedestrian safety. Read up on some of those studies. I think that you'll be amazed when you see how poor American safety and design standards are compared to the rest of the world.

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    Looking for examples of narrow streets

    Hi Jake, this is Steve. While I am home sick I was surfing the web and found this website.

    I would put the question this way. Are there examples of new residential roads with fire lane access under 20'?

    Our design standards for new residential streets have a minimum width of 36' which allows for 20' fire lane and two 8' parking lanes. We want to consider reduced widths to reduce urban runoff, reduce speeds, and provide a more attractive environment for walking and cycling. We want to maintain on-street parking. Fire marshall assumes 8' for parking lanes since vehicle code allows cars to park 18" from curb. They don't believe reducing the fire lane width is appropriate. Jake has found Chico allows narrower roads if the City maintains a routing plan for emergency vehicles showing how they gain access to neighborhoods. Fresno allows narrow roads subject to appropriate placement of driveways (works best for driveways serving 3-car garages).

    Laguna and Balboa examples would be existing non-conforming roads. We have those too, and have asked fire if they have obeserved situations where emergency response has been hampered due to reduced fire lanes (no response yet).

    Any other examples?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    36' seems to be the most common standard I've seen for the reasons you describe, the 20' clear fire lane and parking on either side.

    We've gotten our fire dept. to go down to 30' in total width (reducing the fire lane to effectively 14') and I now live in one of these in a new urbanist type of subdivision.

    I think the 30' works fine in my case and haven't heard concerns from our Fire, mainly because the driveways from the houses coming out to the 30' width provide areas of ample width ensuring 20' in fire lane width is being maintained in most spots even with a fully parked street. Also all the streets are straight without curvature.

    In instances however where the houses are alley loaded without driveway cuts and/or instances where streets are not straight but curvilinear, there's been some concerns raised by these streets being 30' and I would tend to agree in seeing how they function and feel.

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    I actually did some research on this in grad school with my advisor, and it was published in the August 2007 issue of Urban Land. It's called "Skinny Streets and Fire Trucks"

    http://www.uli.org/sitecore/content/...07/August.aspx

    We spoke with some different jurisdictions around the country about how the worked with fired departments to get skinny streets approved and constructed. Hope that helps.

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