The Urban Street Design Guide: a guidebook for complete streets nationwide

In recent years, cities have been leading innovators in shaping complete streets that accommodate the needs of pedestrians, transit vehicles, bicyclists, freight and motorists, all while considering the businesses and residents located along the street.  The Urban Street Design Guide (USDG) is a new compilation of the design concepts and the lessons learned in the complete streets movement.  Published back in September by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), the handbook offers detailed guidance on all sorts of complete street retrofits, such as reimagining the urban boulevard, installing a raised intersection, or tightening a turning radius.  It also advises on how to use limited resources to make improvements through incremental, interim progress.

An Urban Street Design Guide illustration of an interim public plaza. (Credit:

The USDG is grounded in the philosophy that streets in cities and town are not merely for conveying traffic but are also public spaces that should be safe, sustainable, economically beneficial, and enhance the quality of life.  Roadway design in the U.S. has traditionally been oriented toward moving lots of cars safely, quickly, and over long distances. However, urban areas also need walking, transit, bicycles, and freight to maximize the efficiency of their transportation system.  The USDG is the first comprehensive national guidebook to emphasize city street design as a unique practice with its own set of design goals, parameters, and tools.  NACTO believes that this guidance will help allay the political and legal concerns over trying out new roadway design standards.

As a founding organizer of NACTO, Philadelphia has been a key part of the complete streets conversation.  The city’s 2012 complete streets ordinance led to the development of the Philadelphia Complete Streets Design Handbook, a document that communicates design guidance for engineers, architects, and planners and helps communities understand the tools available for creating better streets.  Today, development proposals and roadway projects that meet certain thresholds are required to fill out a Complete Streets Checklist demonstrating consideration and compliance with complete streets guidance in Philadelphia.  Find out more at the Streets Department Complete Streets website.

Urban Street Design Guide before-and-after example of a “Slow Zone” street. (Credit:


Tidbit Tuesday | How Philadelphians commute to work, broken out by race/ethnicity

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

This week we are looking at how Philadelphians commute to work, broken out by race/ethnicity.

Untitled-1-01This data comes from the 2012 American Community Survey.  Due to statistical variability, only those race/ethnicity groups which make up more than 5% of Philadelphia’s worker population (as defined by the US Census) were included in the above graphic.


Tidbit Tuesday | How do men and women in Philadelphia get to work? Part 2

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

Last week we combed through some 2012 American Community Survey data (the ACS’ website is currently down due to the government shutdown, we actually pulled the data a month ago) to see if men and women use different modes to commute to work at different rates and featured a post about the rate at which men and women travel to work by driving alone, carpooling, or taking public transit.  This week is a follow-up graphic in which we illustrated how men and women bike to work, walk to work, or work at home at different rates. Note, the below graphic’s scale is based on a 10% maximum.


Tidbit Tuesday | How do Philadelphians in 2010 commute to work compared to those in 1960?

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

This week we are taking a look at how Philadelphians in 2010 commuted to work compared with those in 1960.tIDBITtUESDAY_COMMUTEOVERTIME-01

Our data is taken from the 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000 Census, and the 2010 1-year American Community Survey.  It is important to note that in 1960, there was no “Bicycle, Taxi, Etc” category just an “Other and Unknown” category.  For the purposes of this graphic, that category was left out in 1960 as it did not directly align with our “Bicycle, Taxi, Etc” category.  In fact, if those counts that were “Unknown” were known, other transportation mode rates may have been higher.

Tidbit Tuesday | Transportation Mode-Split

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

This week we explored the breakdown of the different modes that Philadelphians use to get to work and how this compares to the country as a whole.  Philadelphians walk, bike, and take public transit to work at a higher rate than the entire country, while Americans as a whole drive more to work than Philadelphians.

tidbittuesday_27-01All of our data is courtesy of the 2011 ACS which can be accessed using American FactFinder.

Abandoned Bicycle Removal Frees Up Bike Racks and Sidewalks

Last month, MOTU asked the public to help locate abandoned bicycles, and Philadelphians responded with approximately 200 reports of abandoned bikes to Philly311. Citizen input allowed MOTU to complete a sweep last Thursday, removing more than 60 abandoned bicycles from city streets and donating them to local non-profit organizations that provide mechanical and work skills training through bicycle refurbishing.

The lock on each tagged bike needs to be ground off individually.

The lock on each tagged bike needs to be ground off individually.

As ridership continues to grow in Philadelphia, the need for reliable bike parking is on the rise, and bike racks are becoming crowded in parts of the city. MOTU and the Streets Department periodically collect abandoned bikes to keep bicycle parking available and to keep our narrow sidewalks clear. A typical commercial street could have up to 30 bicycle parking spaces per block, counting both sides of the street, so clearing 60 bicycles could have the effect of installing two whole blocks worth of new bicycle parking. Or five additional bike corrals.

An inoperable back tire, rusted chain, and debris collected around the wheel all indicate that this bicycle had not been claimed in a long time.

An inoperable back tire, rusted chain, and debris collected around the wheel all indicate that this bicycle had not been claimed in a long time.

We always want to be confident that each bike we remove is abandoned. Each reported bicycle was inspected and tagged with a neon-colored notice at least one week prior to removal. Only bicycles that were inoperable, damaged or deteriorated, and located on public property were collected.

Loading collected bicycle parts into the truck.

Loading collected bicycle parts into the truck.

Shared Space Succeeds at a Busy English Intersection

We came across this story of an imaginative “shared space” that transformed the town of Poynton, England. The town is centered on the junction of its main commercial street and a major highway, but its town center has been in economic decline, dominated by a noisy and congested stream of traffic that includes many trucks.

When the junction was due for reconstruction, local leaders realized that widening the road to handle more vehicles was not the best way to improve Poynton’s situation. Instead, they turned to shared space principles to devise an intersection that fosters equality, sharing, and cooperation among all people using the roadway, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and motorists. Poynton’s “double-roundel” design reduced the number of vehicle lanes, eliminated the traffic signals, made the curb lines less definitive, and greatly expanding walking areas.

The reconstruction was completed in 2012, and today, the double-roundel successfully accommodates the busy highway traffic while softening its impacts on the village. Traffic moves continuously and calmly, residents feel comfortable crossing the street, crash rates have fallen, and local businesses report widespread increases in foot traffic. All of this was accomplished without increases in congestion, important because the highway continues to handle regional passenger and freight traffic.

Implementing a successful shared-space street requires quality planning, design, and funding. In Poynton’s case, local leaders spent years planning the project and securing more than $6 million to finance it. They thought carefully about a variety of measures needed to make it a success, such as constructing gateways on the roads leading up to the junction compelling drivers to downshift from a highway mindset to urban driving.

Should Philadelphia begin to envision a shared-space future for some of our streets? What locations in our city might one day benefit from shared space design?

Tidbit Tuesday — Changes in How Philadelphians Get to Work

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love.

This week we take a look at how Philadelphians’ transportation commute percentages have changed between 2000 and 2010. How do you get to work?  Has it changed between 2000 and 2010?

Year over Year Change-01

Here are the numbers behind the graph — Those who commute to work by public transit increased from 144,936 in 2000 to 159,475 in 2010 and also increased the share of all of Philadelphia’s commuters taking public transportation from 25.44% to 26.42%, showing a share percentage increase of 3.87%.  Those working from home increased from 10,752 in 2000 to 15,803 in 2010 and also increased the share of total workers working from home from 1.89% to 2.62%, showing a share percentage increase of 38.75%.  Bicycling also saw increases.  In 2000, 4,908 commuters biked to work while in 2010, 9,839 commuters biked to work and also increased the share of total workers commuting by bicycle from 0.86% to 1.6%, showing a share increase of 89.24%.  This graphic shows that walking and driving to work both saw transportation share decreases in the same timespan.  There were 51,564 Philadelphians who walked to work in 2000 and 50,680 in 2010. The share of commuters who walked to work also decreased from 9.05% to 8.39%, showing a percentage decrease of 7.22%.  Car commuters showed an increase with 353,471 individuals commuting by car in 2000 and 362,927 2010.  While this is an increase in the total number of car commuters, car commuting as a percentage of all commute modes decreased its share from 62.04% to 60.13%, thus a share decrease (as shown in the graphic) of 3.07%.

*Note: All data is based on the 2000 Census and the 2006-2010 American Community Survey.  The raw data for this infographic can be found by using the US Census’ American FactFinder Tool.  In addition, the following transportation mode categories were excluded — “motorcycles” and “other” — for ease of reading.  If you would like to see more about how these transportation modes have changed by section of Philadelphia, check out this map!

Traffic Safety is NO Laughing Matter.

This morning 7 clowns stood guard at the corner of 15th and JFK.  The clowns were on a mission: to make sure that Philadelphia drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists obeyed traffic laws. The clowns specifically targeted distracted drivers and walkers; drivers not wearing their seat belts; drivers and bicyclists impeding crosswalks; bicyclists on the sidewalk; pedestrians crossing against the light and pedestrians failing to obey no crossing signs at Dilworth Plaza construction site.

Clowning around

This April Fools’ Day celebration was a unique pro-bono partnership with the Pig Iron’s School for Advanced Performance Training, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities and other Philadelphia based thespians and reminded drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to not act like fools any day of the year.

Each year about three dozen pedestrians lose their lives after being struck by cars, trucks and busses. On average, every five hours a pedestrian is sent to the hospital after being hit by a vehicle. Distracted driving and walking, running red lights in cars or on bike, jaywalking and sidewalk bike riding are no laughing matter. Better engineering, stricter enforcement and more engaging education are all parts of the solution to reducing deaths and injuries on our roads.

worshipping the traffic gods

Philadelphians laughed along with the traffic clowns.  However traffic safety is no laughing matter: Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler noted, “The financial toll of these fatalities and accidents is in the hundreds of millions each year, but the personal toll is incalculable. We need to constantly find ways to engage the public on traffic safety issues, as safety must be our top priority. This April Fools’ Day program is great opportunity to build on the nearly one thousand Drive Right, Ride Right, Walk Right ads being seen on busses, subways and transit shelters across the city this spring.”

Rina and the mimes 3.2

If you are interested in watching the clowns in action, check out Newsworks’s video coverage from this morning.

Sign-up for the Pedestrian Bicycle Summit (April 30th)!

Earlier we announced that we are co-hosting the Greater Philadelphia Pedestrian & Bicycle Summit 2013 with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, to be held April 30th.

We are happy to announce that registration for this event is now open!! Please register here: or by clicking the announcement below.  Please note that attendance is limited and registration is required.  There is no cost to attend this event.

Bike Ped Summit Save the Date

In the past five years, Philadelphia and neighboring communities have become increasingly supportive of residents, workers and visitors who chose travel by foot or bike. Multi-million dollar investments have been made across the region to both tie to together and expand our trail networks. Philadelphia neighborhoods have been actively building pedestrian enhancements, such as Parklets in North Philly and Pedestrian Plazas in University City.

The Summit will include sessions on the region’s trail network, policies for protecting pedestrians, methods for expanding the bicycle network, evolving best practices and standards, and community investments in active transportation. You can access the full draft agenda here:

Have questions about the event?  Please contact Ariel Ben-Amos at the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities ( or 215.686.9001) or Cassidy Boulan at DVRPC ( or 215.238.2832).

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