Streets are meant to be platforms for creating value of the surrounding land by encouraging diverse uses (housing, retail, service, entertainment) in an environment where people gather, spend money, socialize, meet practical and playful needs, and create an energy that is absent without robust human activity.
Roads are meant to quickly move people and goods as efficiently and safely as possible between two destinations. They should have wide lanes and minimal distractions. They cater to cars and trucks.
Stroads are the unfortunate combining of streets and roads into one. They make our communities poorer – economically, socially, and environmentally. Stroads are the default design today. By combining the functions of a street and a road, stroads fail at serving either’s function well. The failure of stroads comes at great cost, and local governments need to stop building them.
Streets (and the vehicles they serve) are secondary to the people and activities that surround them. They are people friendly, accommodating walkers, wheelchairs, and bicyclists. The surrounding land use is intense, creating an environment where people want to congregate –spending time and money — generating robust and diverse economic activity. Slow traffic and lots of people create a fun and safe place to live, shop, and play.
Stroads have wide lanes that encourage vehicles to go faster. What person on foot wants to compete with thousands of pounds of metal and plastic barreling toward him or her? What driver wants to slow for pedestrians or vehicles entering and existing the stroad?
Stroads have become the norm in American cities and towns. They are too big for people and too small for fast transit. By trying to be all things to all people, they are nothing to everyone. They neither maximize commercial activity nor rapid travel. Street parking is either non-existent or a nightmare to enter and exit, making it necessary to build parking lots. Parking lots are neither inviting nor do they produce much income for a city, if they produce any at all
Getting rid of Stroads is a relatively cheap way to begin reviving our communities. Some can become streets; some roads. We can maximize the intended use for each, keep people safer, get people from one place to another quickly, and create spaces where people want to be and businesses can thrive. If we found the money and commitment to build Stroads; we can find the money and commitment to get rid of them. When stroads are no longer our default, our communities will be richer, safer, and greener.