Classifying street environments is a method for supporting project team discussions about how to balance Movement and Place. Aided by using a common language, the aim is to agree on a shared understanding of the existing and desired street environments within the study area.
Our roads and streets are the primary physical spaces in which movement and place activity both occur. Roads and streets vary depending on the strategic importance of their movement functions and their qualities and characteristics as places.
Regardless of their name ('road', 'street' or 'highway') or hierarchy ('State', 'regional' or 'local'), the movement functions and place qualities of roads and streets combine to create different types of street environments.
The figure below shows how Movement and place classification come together to define street environments.
To analyse the combinations of Movement and Place, the NSW Movement and Place Framework identifies four street environments:
- civic spaces
- local streets
- main streets
- main roads.
Each type of street environment has typical characteristics. However, this does not equate with a set of rules, assumptions or planning outcomes. The complex nature of our transport networks and our customers’ needs means that every road and street is different, and should be considered individually within its own context.
These streets are at the heart of our communities and have a significant meaning, activity function or built environment. They are often in our major centres, tourist and leisure destinations and community hubs. They are places for people, with a priority on place.
We need to support the place quality of these street environments by giving priority to pedestrians; providing safe, low-speed environments; managing freight and deliveries; providing easy access to cycle routes and public transport; and limiting through-traffic.
These are the majority of the streets in our communities. They often have important local place qualities. Activity levels are less intense than for civic spaces, but these streets can have significant meaning to local people. Town and village main streets are usually 'local streets'.
To support these streets we need to provide access for walking, cycling and private vehicles; safe, low-speed environments; easy access to public transport; and access for local deliveries while limiting through-traffic.
These streets are some of the most vibrant places in our cities and towns. They have both significant movement functions and place qualities. Balancing the functions of these streets is a common challenge.
Historically, main streets were distinguishable by their primary name (Summer Street in Orange, as distinct from the Mitchell Highway). However, growth and change in place intensity in the past century has resulted in many of our current main streets retaining the designation 'highway' or 'road', despite their changed function. Examples are the Pacific Highway, Charlestown, and Parramatta Road/Great Western Highway, Leichhardt.
To support main streets we need to improve place qualities while providing access for walking and cycling and safe, low-speed environments, while also allowing for the efficient movement of people and freight. Trade‐offs and compromises may be required.
These roads and routes are central to the efficient movement of people and goods. They include motorways, primary freight corridors, major public transport routes, the principal bicycle network and key urban pedestrian corridors. Their place activity levels are less intense. However, these roads and routes can have significant meaning to local people.
To support these roads and routes we need to prioritise their strategic movement functions. We can limit negative impacts to place qualities or community severance through their planning, design and operation.
Why we classify
We use classification as a tool to support analysis and discussion. The value of the NSW Movement and Place Framework is that it supports collaboration in working towards an overarching place-based vision. At the heart of this collaboration is the interplay between movement and place considerations, and how this informs our understanding and decision-making. As we work through the core process, classification can support our conversations about how the planning, design and operation of a road or street will lead to the outcomes encapsulated by the project vision.
Classification can also be used to communicate visually our understanding of the relationship between movement function and place intensity in a particular location. The different types of movement, as shown in the figure below, aid in framing this conversation through the lens of all road users' needs.
When and how we classify
Classifying street environments can be useful at various stages of the core process, including for:
- agreeing on a desired future state – the project vision (Step 1)
- studying an existing network and comparing it to the desired future state (Step 2 and Step 3).
Project teams can map the existing network within the study area, based on the key characteristics that define each of the four street environments. Typical examples of high-level classification of an existing state are shown below:
Classification can help us to define and communicate the gap between an existing state and the desired state within a plan or study area.
To help identify and understand the issues and opportunities, identify the hierarchy of streets and roads making up that network within the study area, and classify the 'existing state' movement significance. Mapping movement, including the existing and known or likely future infrastructure and services, stops, and interchanges (i.e. the 'planned intent') can also split out how people and goods interact with a place.
Place intensity and movement function