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Cities are expanding and more people are living in urban areas. Streets take up about 20% of a city’s public space and are essential for transporting people and goods. Green streets, designed for people, bikes, public transport, and nature, can offset the urban heat island effect, manage stormwater, and provide safe places for street life and alternative modes of transportation. By designing streets with green spaces in mind, cities can improve air and water quality, safety, well-being, social equity, and stability. Green streets are a crucial component of sustainable and livable urban environments.

As our cities continue to grow, more and more people are living in urban areas. Did you know that streets often comprise around 20% of a city’s public space? There are many different types and sizes of streets, such as corridors, boulevards, avenues, lanes, alleys, and thoroughfares. Streets serve a vital role in moving people and goods around a city, but they also serve as a means of transforming urban areas into more welcoming and sustainable places. By incorporating green spaces, such as trees and planted areas, streets can help offset the urban heat island effect and filter and manage stormwater. Additionally, they can provide safe places for street life and alternative modes of transportation, such as bikes and public transit. Green streets are designed with people, bicycles, public transportation, and nature in mind.

Designing streets with green spaces in mind can significantly impact the health of a city’s air and water, the safety and well-being of its citizens, and the social equity and stability of daily life. Overall, green streets are a crucial component to creating a more sustainable and livable urban environment.and nature in mind.

Activity 1 – Street Crossings

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Street intersections are corners where people, bicycles, motorcycles, automobiles, trucks, and buses come together. The higher the volume of vehicular traffic, the higher the need for designated pedestrian crossings. Intersections sonically and physically communicate where and when people need to crosswalks and where. Raised or painted areas denote traffic calming mid-crossing safe stations. Planted medians offer vegetative and shaded halfway stops. Look at NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide to Intersection Design for several layers of design elements. Find an intersection in your city and propose people-friendly safe crossing areas—label key features.

Activity 2 – Streets for Kids

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Children make up almost one-third of the world’s population. Yet the majority of streets are designed with wide lanes of traffic and little room for young humans. For most youth, roads are dangerous. Yet streets are how children navigate neighborhoods, meet friends, go to school, and experience their city. Imagine streets with, and for, children. Roads of all types need to be quieter for caregivers, parents, and grandparents. Roads need materials that absorb and deflect sounds; they need the quiet and cleanliness of electric cars and the filter, shelter, and shade of trees absorbing loud sounds. Providing protected places for children to sit, eat, and play safely alongside streets can be buffered with raised plantings and trees. Boulevards that connect to schools and playgrounds offering different age options are key. Streets for children offer clean places to sit with caregivers, parents, grandparents, and other children. Choose a neighborhood road and list the crossing dangers. Then add 3-5 new safety improvements for fun, social interaction, safety, and nature, on an aerial photograph of a street in your neighborhood.

Activity 3 – Research Green Streets in Your City

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Now that you are becoming a Green Street advocate, take some time to explore the links to see what is happening around the country. A good example is Promoting Green Streets by River Network. Review its key points and begin to image how you can introduce Green Streets to your Neighborhood and City. Take a look around your neighborhood or city. Are there streets that have dedicated bike lanes? Are intersections marked for pedestrian crossings? Are there planted medians? Do the streets in your city have trees? Are part of the street porous pavers? Are there planted bioswales buffering people from the traffic? Take pictures of Green Streets in your city and post them to the Green Street Gallery! If your city does not have Green Street, use the interactive [STREETMIX]( to imagine one for them!

Upload your Green Street to the Gallery!

Activity 4 – Make Room for Nature

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Safe streets that promote a healthy quality of life have trees. Trees are home to the biodiversity of nonhuman and human life and offer shade, moments of privacy, and places to gather and collect. Indigenous plantings along streets improve habitat for the biodiversity of life landscapes while managing stormwater, protecting pedestrians from the direct bike and vehicular traffic, and protecting pedestrians with a calm zone between the street and the buildings where people live, work, and learn, buy, and play. Draw a section through a busy street and show bioswales, treed and planted mediums, plant buffers, and trees; don’t forget to offer seating and bike rental/return.

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Activity 5 – Neighborhood Street Redesign

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Neighborhood streets often are only made for cars, forcing people to walk their dogs in the street. Marking walking and bike lanes on the road encourage people to walk and bike. An even better solution is to construct a sidewalk with a landscaped green parkway between the sidewalk and the street. Planting trees in the parkway protects people from cars and cools the road. Take a look at some before and after pictures of the firm URB-I for inspiration! Another resource is Project for Public Space Streets for People Case Studies like this one in New York City, helping children get safely to and from neighborhood schools and allowing people of all ages to gather outdoors. Using Google Maps, find a neighborhood street to improve for people of all ages. Using photographs or sketches, draw a before and after view of a street in your neighborhood.

Activity 6 – Downtown Street Redesign

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Streets downtown have more people and cars than most residential thoroughfares. Review STREETS. Prioritize safety and protection of people by adding improvements. Start with clearly marked intersections, add planted buffers, and create a crossing median, bike lanes, a bus lane, and car lanes. Organize the movement of the street to keep people safe. Draw a plan and cross-section of suggested improvements to the thoroughfare

Activity 7 – Round Abouts

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A possible choice for a safe intersection is the round-a-bout or circle of continuous movement from different directions. As a pedestrian, traffic comes from one direction only instead of 3!! Instead of cars lining up for 1, 2, or 3 minutes at a traffic stop, spewing carbon dioxide directly into the neighborhood, vehicles move in and through! This fact alone speaks to higher safety and cleaner air!!! Visit the roundabout in Normal Illinois but Heorr Schaudt and see how a circular organization of people, vehicles, and public park space can create fluid movement in a city. Research other successful roundabouts in your state and other parts of the world. Why sit in traffic and wait at a red light when movement can be safe and fluid? Check out Wikipedia’s article and listing of the [history of roundabouts] and its improvement in traditional traffic lights and stop signs. Since then, modern roundabouts have become commonplace throughout the world. Become active in suggesting them to your community! Make a design for a roundabout in your city and upload it to the gallery!


  • What are the benefits of having Green Streets?
  • Green street design affects the traffic efficiency and increases dangerous blindspots from the tall-grown plants.
  • Since roads are potentially dangerous for youths, areas populated with children should:
  • \How do green streets improve the quality of the environment?
  • In a neighborhood, what benefits can green street designs bring to people of all ages?
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