The Case Against the Cul-de-Sac: Build Streets That Connect

Suburban cul-de-sacs are one of the fundamental units of a
development pattern that is coming under increasing strain and scrutiny
around the country. In Charlotte, NC, Streetsblog Network member The Naked City
argues against spending precious transportation dollars on building
roads that encourage the traditional sprawling pattern of four-lane
highways and residential dead ends:

229372938_cdf43c8aa7.jpgPhoto by northfield.org via Flickr.

[W]e
should get smarter in using state and federal transportation money
restricted for streets and roads. There are plenty of legitimate
projects in Mecklenburg County that are sorely needed, as
development has overtaken old farm-to-market roads. But instead of
building the typical NCDOT-style four-lane country highways, build
four-lane boulevards. This is, after all, a city.

Build plenty of streets that connect. The more connections,
the less the load on any one road. And can we stop calling them
"roads"? They’re streets. Streets are what you have in cities. Roads
are what you have in the country. Did I mention that this is, after
all, a city?

On
those interconnected streets, build (or require others to build)
sidewalks and bike lanes. If key thoroughfares need connecting, buy the
houses that stand in the way, and connect where needed.

The Naked City’s author, Mary Newsom, notes a recent development in Virginia that has to do with this kind of connectivity:

Note
what the state of Virginia has done. The state recently decided it will
no longer maintain (or even plow) state-owned streets in new
subdivisions that don’t meet state requirements for connectivity and
sidewalks. Here’s a link to a WashPost story.
The
reasoning is sound: State taxpayers are funding road widenings that
wouldn’t be necessary if subdivisions and other developments were
required to connect with each other. And disconnected neighborhoods
pose a serious problem for emergency services.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Sharpe reports for NPR
that in Santa Monica and Los Angeles some residents are trying to 
create human connection within cul-de-sacs using a rather old-fashioned
idea — the commune.

Elsewhere around the network, Baltimore Spokes discusses the civil disobedience known as "road witching", Orlando Bike Commuter reports on legally sanctioned blindness to bicyclists in Tennessee, and Livable Streets for West Palm Beach presents some terrific photos of working bikes from around the world.

  • KateNonymous

    If cul-de-sacs are going to be built, there should be a pathway linking them to the next street so that pedestrians and cyclists can get from one section to another. I sometimes see this on cul-de-sacs that back up to major streets, presumably for bus riders to get to their stops easily, but I don’t see a reason why it should be limited to that kind of location.

  • Here is a better idea. Make public transit free, move to town, and give the ‘burbs to the organic farmers.

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