Every Street is Great for Walking

The City of Burnaby has developed new street standards for its four densest neighbourhoods. The standards incorporate many features to enhance walkability and liveability. By applying these standards to entire neighbourhoods, Burnaby is creating the opportunity for people of all abilities to complete their entire walking trip using streets of the highest quality.

Stuart Ramsey, Burnaby, Canada

Can we build streets that are better for people? Can we do it for an entire neighbourhood; not just a few high-profile streets?

Burnaby is the third-largest city in Metropolitan Vancouver, Canada. Over one-third of people and jobs are located in the four key neighbourhoods with the greatest walking potential. There are many shops and services in each neighbourhood, and each is well-served by rapid transit and bus. All that is needed is the creation of a high-quality public realm that encourages walking for people of all ages and abilities.

To achieve this, Burnaby developed new street design standards that apply to all streets (more than 80 kilometres in total) in these four key neighbourhoods. From the building face to the street, these standards have:

1. Space for restaurant seating or retail displays that enliven the street. On residential streets, this area is landscaped.

2. Generous sawcut concrete sidewalks.

3. Landscaped rain gardens that improve water quality. These linear spaces provide room for street trees and lush landscaping. The rain gardens are bordered by metal railings and granite cobble strips that further embellish the street. Bridges across the rain garden provide a convenient location for seating, bike racks, lighting, and public art.

4. Cycle tracks provide a safe and comfortable environment for cyclists.

5. Front boulevards provide space for lighting and a second row of trees. This area is widened at bus stops to create comfortable, accessible boarding and alighting areas.

6. On two-lane streets, curb bulges (with rain gardens) and pavement treatments in the parking area result in a street that feels narrower.

Compared to traditional street designs, the new standards have the following features that promote walking and liveable communities:

1. Sidewalks are typically wider.

2. Sidewalk lighting is provided.

3. Sawcut sidewalk surfaces are smoother, to benefit people in wheelchairs or baby carriages.

4. Pedestrians are up to eight metres further away from traffic, thus reducing their exposure to noise, emissions, air turbulence and spray.

5. Larger trees improve air quality, provide shade, release beneficial phytochemicals, and provide a “roof” for the public realm.

6. Landscaping, public art, and other design features provide an attractive and welcoming environment. Aesthetics are considered in the selection of all components of the street, from seating to lighting.

7. Attractive streets support street-oriented businesses, which further enliven the street.

8. Provision of space for street furniture means that the sidewalk is unobstructed.

9. Frequent seating provides opportunities for relaxing and socializing, and extends the walking range for some people.

10. Cycle tracks create safe routes away from both traffic and pedestrians.

11. Dedicated bus boarding and alighting areas keep the sidewalk clear, even when a bus stop is crowded.

12. Small plazas are created on every street corner, providing more space for pedestrians and ensuring that they can be easily seen by drivers and cyclists.

13. Pedestrian ramps at intersections are aligned perpendicular to the curb and in the direction of travel, to facilitate wheelchair users, baby carriages, and people who are visually impaired.

14. Curb bulges on quieter streets reduce the on-street parking supply by 30%, thus reducing the demand for car travel.

15. Streets feel narrower and have tighter intersection corners, thus encouraging lower car speeds.

By taking an integrated approach that prioritizes walking, cycling, and transit, Burnaby’s new design standards create exceptionally walkable streets. Applying these standards to entire neighbourhoods will make it possible for people of all abilities to complete their entire walking trip using streets of the highest quality.


Stuart Ramsey, Burnaby, Canada

Voting closed!

Stay tuned for updates.