Walking around my local area got me thinking, why do our residential streets need to be so big. The more I have thought about it, the more I wonder if we have yet again more planning or engineering rules working against us creating higher densities. Its probably easiest to show what I mean so lets start with my local area.
Looking closer using the councils GIS viewer you can see the property boundaries as well as measure the distance between them. For these two streets for example the road reserve is 18m wide, that’s just 2m narrower than at some points along Dominion Rd yet they only serve a handful of houses (34 in the case of these two streets).
Looking at another couple of streets, both Lantern Court and Millstone Lane are 16m wide and each only having 11 houses on them. The same width as Braestar Court and Russett Grove which combined have 26 houses on them.
Yet a large proportion of the road reserve is taken up by space for things like footpaths which all contribute towards in some cases setting houses back quite far from the actual street. What is also interesting in all the examples shown is that whenever I walk around, there are almost no cars parked on the streets due to all houses having a garage (and most a double garage). But what I find interesting is to compare it two another street nearby that I travel through on a regular basis to get to the train station.
This is Vitex lane and putting aside the terraced houses what I have noticed is that every single person walks down the middle of the street and not on the footpaths, some of the local kids even play in the street so in many ways it has turned out to be an early version of a shared space. The road reserve itself is a couple of metres narrower but what interested me was to think about what would have happened if we applied a shared space kind of thinking to to these quiet residential streets.
With only a small number of houses on each of these streets there isn’t much vehicle traffic so a shared space approach would help to not only slow cars down further but also save a lot of needed road space. A couple of metres on less on each side of the road isn’t likely to be noticed that much but when you combine that saving across a number of roads it quickly adds up. In a development of houses this size it might be enough to squeeze another dozen houses in without even considering smaller section sizes. Across whole neighbourhoods it might add enough people to cross the threshold and allow for the 5 minute pint test to be passed. Further less road space means that infrastructure can likely be built cheaper while also allowing the costs to be spread amongst more properties. It might not be much but when trying to find ways to bring down the costs of development, every little bit helps.
Sadly its a bit late now for these existing suburbs but it is something we should think about for any future greenfield developments.