Failure of road hierarchy?

Whilst googling the term “connectivity” I came across the “Livable New York” website with its resource manual (link). One of the chapters in the manual discusses “street connectivity.” What I found interesting is what appears to be a strong condemnation of the whole concept of road hierarchy. The author, Paul Beyer, writes:

After World War II (…) suburban communities were planned and built on a hierarchical system of roadways  (….) The hierarchical system functioned (or not) like this: wide, local neighborhood roads connected isolated subdivisions (many dominated by cul-de-sacs and dead-ends) to a limited number of neighborhood collector streets; these collector streets delivered cars to minor and major arterials, usually at a limited number of access points; and these arterials then connected to freeways and highways.


This system reduced through-traffic, thus providing the privacy and isolation sought by families leaving the cities; and cul-de-sacs were seen as the safest environment for raising children.  The downside was increased traffic congestion, decreased walkability/bikability, limited or no transit options, and complete reliance on the automobile.


But times are changing; many land use and transportation planning professionals are advocating for a more inter-connected street design system that promotes walking, biking, transit, slower car speeds, and greater quality-of-life.

OK, the article and source are not perhaps as authorative as a statement from a government Ministry, but it is at least a straw in the wind from someone else that “road hierarchy” might be a concept which has had its day.


699 – Beyer, Paul. “Street connectivity“, Livable New York Resource Manual, New York USA (downloaded June 2013)


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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