About main streets
Main streets are some of the most vibrant places in our cities and towns. They have both significant movement functions and place qualities. They are found in centres where people gather to socialise, work, shop or access essential services, or around public transport nodes. Balancing the functions of these streets is a common challenge, often requiring trade-offs and compromises.
The design of main streets needs to:
- Improve place qualities – implicit in the designation as a main street is a high place intensity. Main streets need to contribute positively to the neighbourhood character, have a high-quality public realm, feature human scale as an important design consideration, and ensure people using or moving within these places are protected from the weather.
- Provide safe and comfortable conditions for walking and cycling – making main streets accessible and comfortable make them more attractive for people to walk, gather, and to shop. While vehicle speeds on main streets may be lower than on main roads, there may still be many situations where vehicle speeds and volumes can be too high for people to feel safe and comfortable to stay, walk, or cycle. In these cases, design measures should prioritise reducing the speed and volume of vehicles and encourage mode shift to sustainable modes. There are a variety of design elements that can be implement to increase place activation in cost effective ways.
- Allow for the efficient movement of people and freight – people and freight need to move through main streets. At the same time, people’s activities need to be supported both along and within the street space, including servicing and deliveries.
Issues and opportunities
- Making places identifiable as civic and commercial landmarks for their local community.
- Supporting local freight access for businesses while discouraging regional freight through-movement.
- Recognising that car parking space is limited and must be prioritised appropriately relative to other competing interests.
- Recognising street space is finite and highly contested between a range of place priorities and road and street user groups, and identifying how to make appropriate trade-offs.
Accessible and connected
- Balancing efficient through-vehicle movement with adjacent land-use requirements and the desire for a lower speed environment.
- Prioritising crossing points so people can easily access multiple points of interest on both sides of the street.
Flexible and sustainable
- Reviewing trade-offs in road space allocation. In constrained corridors, carriageways have tended to prioritise private vehicles, reducing space for more sustainable transport modes and place making.
- Reallocating road space to people staying, walking, cycling, and catching public transport, aiming for significantly higher place intensity while also enabling more efficient and sustainable mass mobility.
Safe and secure
- Reviewing speed and space allocation. Excessively high speeds and volumes of private vehicles and heavy vehicles reduce safety and comfort. This can be addressed by reducing speeds, reallocating road space to prioritise place-based activities and sustainable mobility, and increasing buffers and planting between footpaths and vehicle travel lanes.
Main streets feature both high place intensity and high movement function. There is often a significant broad network of main streets throughout urban areas. These networks create a variety of pathways for people’s activities and movement.
Main street types