Attack of the 'strodes'


  • John Olson

There are some words used in daily conversations that set people off in different ways. I happen to fixate on how the words “road” and “street” are used.

It shouldn’t set me off, but it tends to make me twitch like the hitchhiker in There’s Something About Mary, when Ben Stiller’s character questions the idea of "6-Minute Abs" as a replacement to "7-Minute Abs."

Let me explain:

You may have heard me say this before, but roads are for cars; streets are for people.

One main difference between a street and a road is the speed of travel. Roads have faster speeds and are the means of vehicular travel between long distances. County, state and federal highways are examples. Roads are not conducive to other modes of travel: walking, biking, etc. 

On the other hand, streets are for traveling shorter distances, and often have on-street parking, bike lanes and functional sidewalks.

One of my college professors used to classify roads by how the drainage works. He would say that if it has curbs, it’s a street; if it has parallel ditches, it is a road. Very clear ... or is it?

What do we call the "streets" by that definition that are in the city but are not meant for people, bikes or other modes of transportation? Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns refers to them as "stroads".

“Noun. Portmanteau of “street” and “road”: it describes a street, er, road, built for high speed, but with multiple access points. Excessive width is a common feature. A common feature in suburbia, especially along commercial strips. Unsafe at any speed, their extreme width and straightness paradoxically induces speeding. Somewhat more neutral than synonymous traffic sewer.”

Bottom line, let's build both roads and streets in the future and understand why each is built. If it's a street, make it for people. If it’s a road, please don't pretend that it's a street.

John Olson is a licensed landscape architect, residing in Colorado Springs. He serves as the Director of Plannning and Landscape Architecture for EVstudio Planning & Civil Engineering. He is also a co-founder of Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, which implemented Better Block Pikes Peak in 2012, the recent Walkability Signage found in Downtown Colorado Springs, and perhaps most notably, Curbside Cuisine.


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