Los Angeles County “RENEWS” Model Streets Manual
Los Angeles County Department of Planning is updating its Model Streets Manual to  set better guidelines for improved safety, livability and accessibility to  mass transit options. Photo by joezero5.

The Los Angeles County Department of Planning is updating its Model Streets Manual to set better guidelines for improved safety, livability and accessibility to mass transit. Photo by joezero5.

In an effort to improve the health and livability of cities, Los Angeles County (LAC) provided grants of up to $240,000 to nine applicants as part of its Renewing Environments for Nutrition, Exercise and Wellness (RENEW) initiative. The grants are part of a $32 million fund awarded to the LAC Department of Health by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiative, “Communities Putting Prevention to Work.” The grantees include Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Alliance for a Better Community, Green LA Coalition and Community Health Councils, among five others.

Urban planners, transportation engineers and public health advocates gathered earlier this month to discuss and rewrite the current streets manual. Team leader and transportation planner Ryan Snyder encourages other cities to “use it, adopt it, steal it, and plagiarize it,” in an effort to take it beyond Los Angeles. One of the guidelines suggested by the new manual for better city design is the idea of transit-oriented development (TOD), or urban communities centered around mass transit hubs in order to encourage public transportation, walking and bicycling, and eliminate dependence on cars.

Below is a description of six out of the 12 chapters of the new Model Streets Manual, as summarized by Streetsblog Los Angeles:

  • Street Network Design: In terms of safety and livability, networks with numerous short blocks in a grid achieve much better outcomes than street networks with long blocks and numerous cul-de-sacs.
  • Traveled Way and Intersection Design: Bike lanes and narrower car lanes can improve safety and “modern roundabouts” improve the comfort of intersections. Streets should be physically designed for slower speeds.
  • Universal Pedestrian Access: Without precise design guidelines, obstacles to mobility, like utility boxes, start to crop up. A four-zone system — representing the curb zone, furniture zone, pedestrian zone, and frontage zone — can ensure that there’s always a passable sidewalk.
  • Pedestrian Crossings: Simply put, pedestrians must have the ability to safely cross the street. Real and perceived safety is important and is not well reflected by crash data, i.e. “maybe nobody gets killed here, because no one feels safe enough to cross.” Planners should use treatments that are proven to reduce crashes. Transit stops should always have good crossings, because trips typically begin and end on opposite sides of the street. Above all, evaluate the success of new crossings using performance measures.
  • Bikeway Design: All streets are bicycle streets, and so all should be safe for bicyclists. Existing manuals tell us how to design roads for cars; this one will accommodate all users.
  • Traffic Calming: “Design streets that self-enforce the behaviors that you’re looking to enforce.” Some of the physical measures that can achieve “self-enforcement” include: lane reductions, medians, refuges for pedestrians, bulbouts, curbless flush streets, flush medians, streets trees, lateral shifts, shared spaces, bike lanes, textured surfaces, back-in angled parking, valley gutters, roundabouts, mini-roundabouts, impellers, chicanes, medians, yield streets, pinch points, raised intersections, raised pedestrian crossing, and speed humps.

Read the full summary of the remaining six chapters here.

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