Boulevards, we believe, should be reconsidered – classic, multifunctional boulevards, with side access roads and strong lines of trees in medians.
These days, planners and designers accept the idea that streets should serve one primary traffic function – such as local traffic, collector traffic, through traffic, or fast, long-distance traffic. With persuasion (which is readily accepted) from engineering and public works professionals, we often design for these single purposes.
But life and what happens on our streets is not so simple, nor should it be. Boulevards often represent excellent transportation and design solutions to complex urban movement and land-use issues.
During the 1980s in Los Angeles, participating in the design of a major new development through which a high-volume arterial road passed, we proposed side access roads to serve the adjoining commercial and residential properties and to slow and calm local traffic, basically a boulevard configuration. However, we discovered that lane width standards for the new access roads were so wide as to take away the local quality desired, and we were advised that intersections along such streets would be exceedingly dangerous. Solving the problems would take so much space under operative standards and norms that the idea died.
During field research for the book Great Street, considerable time was spent on a variety of boulevards, especially observing intersections and the nature of motorist and pedestrian movements there. These streets did not appear to be particularly dangerous, people simply adapted to what was there and did so safely. Perhaps most importantly, these streets were delightful places to be. Pedestrians, local motorists and those passing through quickly seemed to get along together.