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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Boulevards: A Study of Safety, Behavior, and Usefulness

  • Author(s): Jacobs, Allan B.
  • Rofe, Yodan Y.
  • Macdonald, Elizabeth S.
  • et al.

This study and report is about boulevard streets.

It starts with a pro-boulevard bias born of experience, a strong suspicion that boulevards have been getting a "bum rap," and, moreover, that they often represent excellent transportation/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 to be developed on each side and to slow and calm the local traffic. Lane-width standards for the new access roads were so wide as to take away the local quality desired and, more importantly, 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. Later, proposals to modify an existing arterial street in San Francisco into a boulevard faced the same objections -- primarily, dangerous intersections and travel and parking lanes held to be too narrow. Finally, during the field research for the book "Great Streets," we had occasion to spend considerable time on a variety of boulevard streets, mostly in Paris and Barcelona. Spending hours at intersections, observing them and the nature of motorist and pedestrian movements, they did not appear to be particularly dangerous. Rather, the overwhelming traffic characteristic at the intersections was adaptation. People simply adapted to what was there and did so safely. Perhaps most importantly, these streets were delightful places to be. They were, and are, peopled. Pedestrians, local motorists, and those passing through as fast as they can all seemed to get along together. And so, this study was born.

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