A tool for building the city, little known in the United States, is the multiway boulevard. I was not aware of the term until reading “The Boulevard Book” by Allan Jacobs, Elizabeth Macdonald and Yodan Rofe, the authoritative reference on multiway boulevards. I had seen roads of this type in my international travels, from Guangzhou to Paris, but didn’t realize their significance until reading this book.
Multiway boulevards are multi-functional roadways, consisting of at least a central roadway, optimized for fast automobile traffic, and side roadways, optimized for low-speed local access traffic and parking. Medians separate the central roadway from the access roadways, and on well-designed boulevards the medians, access roadways and sidewalks create an extended pedestrian realm. Multiway boulevards typically have at least four rows of formally spaced street trees. The median trees visually and psychologically separate the traffic realm from the pedestrian realm. Pedestrians feel comfortable lingering on sidewalks and medians, crossing the access roadways at will. Vehicles in the access roadways travel slowly by design, due to the narrowness of the lane, frequent bicycles and pedestrians, vehicles entering or exiting parallel parking, and delivery trucks stopped for unloading. Multiway boulevards are capable of handling heavy volumes of fast traffic, from 4 to 10 lanes, while providing a safe, quiet and relaxing environment for the adjoining buildings and pedestrians along the roadway.
In contrast, U.S. traffic engineering focuses on only one function for a road: high-speed traffic corridor, from which pedestrians and businesses stay away, and local access streets, with limited traffic volumes and speeds. Multiway boulevards can accomplish both tasks within one right-of-way. The best boulevards, however, do require very wide right of ways. Absolute minimum is 100 feet wide, more typical are 180 to 250 feet wide.
It is well-known that freeways, whether at grade, in a trench or elevated, are detrimental to cities, separating neighborhoods with deafening and ugly “no-go” zones, and overwhelming the local street grid at off-ramps. Multiway boulevards are an elegant solution to providing rapid mobility in a city without sacrificing quality of life. Does your city have any of these roads?