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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-05-096
Date: July 2006

Lesson 6: Traditional Neighborhood Design

Picture shows classic American homes with large front porches. In front of the homes is a tree lined sidewalk as a buffer between the homes and the street. Driveways and garages are not visible.

Lesson Outline

  • What is traditional neighborhood design?
  • How does traditional neighborhood design encourage bicycling and walking?
  • What are the different elements of traditional neighborhood design?

Elements of Traditional Neighborhood Design

  • Basic street layout.
  • Use of alleys.
  • Street design speed.
  • Street width.
  • Curb radii.
  • Intersection geometry.
  • Street trees and landscaping.
  • Street lighting.
  • Sidewalk width and location.
  • Building setbacks.
  • Parking.

Suburban Design

Illustration shows a plan of a neighborhood development. A collector road runs through the middle. North of the collector is a new urbanist design, characterized by a modified grid and dispersed uses that don’t require a user to go to the collector road. South of the collector, the streets snake and curve, creating longer distances for pedestrian travel. In order to get from the neighborhood to school, work or shopping, one must use the collector road were traffic would be heavy.

Source: ENR, May 9, 1994.

Kentlands, MD

Picture is of a lovely suburban neighborhood with a tree lined street, well tended yards and a wide brick paved sidewalk in front of the houses. There are no garages visible. There are a couple cars parked along the shaded street and a child is walking on the sidewalk in a direction away from the camera.

Seaside, FL

Picture shows an aerial view of a new urbanist neighborhood with one side facing the beach and ocean. The plan has a central town green and village center. The streets are in a modified grid showing dispersed uses. One main street goes through the town center, but the neighborhoods can easily avoid it.

Source: Alex McLean

Celebration, FL

The first picture is of a sidewalk that runs along the front of homes with front porches and white picket fences. There are trees planted in a grass strip between the sidewalk and curb.

The pedestrian perspective and shows a sidewalk in front of homes and a tree lined grass strip between the street and sidewalk.

The third photo is from the perspective of the motorist and shows a view from the car while driving down the street.

The first picture shows two pedestrians walking on a sidewalk in front of stores. The sidewalk is wide with a grass strip planted with trees between the sidewalk and street. There are cars parked along the street.

The second photo is of a wide street lined with tall palm trees that runs in front of store fronts. Cars are parked at the curb on both sides of the street.

The third picture is of an alleyway behind buildings. There are garage doors visible.

Lesson Summary

  • When done correctly, traditional neighborhood design encourages bicycling and walking.
  • There are many design elements that constitute a traditional neighborhood.
  • There are several other benefits besides those for bicycling and walking.



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