The NYC Street Design Manual: Guidelines for a Livable City

street_design_manual.jpgAt about the same time that Times Square went car-free, DOT released its Street Design Manual, a mammoth document that "provides policies and design guidelines…
for the improvement of streets and sidewalks throughout the five
boroughs.
" It’s not as sexy as the Naked Cowboy in a pedestrian plaza, but I would be hard-pressed to overstate its significance.

New York City’s streets are shaped by a bewildering array of public agencies and private entities. The design manual is a serious attempt to nudge all these players toward greater safety, accommodating non-automotive modes, and all that good stuff we lump together as "livable streets." If its guidelines are adopted as DOT envisions, the effects will reverberate beyond DOT and outside city government. New Yorkers will get better streets, delivered faster.

This morning, the AIA’s Center for Architecture hosted a forum where DOT’s Margaret Newman and Mike Flynn explained what’s in the document and how to use it. Judging by the crowd of about 75, the design manual has generated a lot of interest from local planners, architects, landscape architects, and transportation engineers. Seats were packed and extra chairs had to be brought out.

Flynn stressed that the manual lays out guidelines, not mandates, and that it will evolve over time. Significantly, it includes the new treatments we’ve seen on New York City streets in the past two years, like separated bike lanes, and some we have yet to see, like shared streets and separated busways. Many of these ideas, gleaned from other cities, are designated as "pilots," meaning that we won’t see them pop up all over town in the next few years. But the fact that these new treatments appear in the city’s official reference guide to street design is encouraging. Gordon Meth, a transportation engineer who heads the traffic division at the RBA Group, put it well in a roundtable session that followed DOT’s presentation. "A lot of people in my profession don’t want to do anything that’s not in a book," he said, "so this is a very good thing for us."

Filed Under: DOT

  • I \v/ NY

    NYC DOT under JSK has managed to make streets actually exciting. Of course they become exciting once when you realize streets can be more than just moving as many cars as possible as fast as possible.

  • Does it touch the parking requirements?

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

NYC Agencies Team Up on Guidelines for an Active City

|
City officials, architects, planners, and public health advocates crammed into the Center for Architecture last night for the unveiling of New York City’s Active Design Guidelines. Heralded as a first-of-its-kind collaboration between four city departments — Health, Transportation, Design and Construction, and City Planning — the effort underscores that New Yorkers, as much as we […]

If Tennessee Can Adopt Livable Street Designs, So Can New York State DOT

|
States and cities across the country have adopted standards from the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Urban Street Design Guide, a blueprint for safe, multi-modal streets that made its debut last fall. New York City is among those cities that have incorporated NACTO guidelines, and this month Tennessee became the sixth state to do so. But Matthew […]
STREETSBLOG USA

State DOT Engineers Say They’ll Do Better on Walking, Biking, Transit

|
In a welcome sign from an industry group that has been slow to embrace street designs that prioritize walking, biking, and transit, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) released a statement last week saying it intends to “better address multi-modal issues.” AASHTO’s street design manuals are highly influential and lay out standards that many engineers […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Memphis Marching Forward on Safe Streets

|
Something important is happening in Memphis, Tennessee. Out on the streets, the city has made progress on its plan to add 55 miles of bike lanes in two years, including the installation of some protected bike lanes. In addition, the state of Tennessee has been overhauling its transportation policies in a shift away from road […]