Beware the insidious cul-de-sac

They’re sold as the epitome of the quiet, friendly street – but cul-de-sacs can be toxic for your suburb unless they’re buffered with some antidote.


This is a neat little video.

It makes you think. Knowing what we know about the value of walkable places to live, and the terrible cost of climate change, why do we build things that are inherently unbussable and that generate huge amounts of traffic? (ironically, as much of the cul-de-sac appeal is no through traffic!)

Unwalkable, unbussable, pretty typical

You don’t even need the cul-de-sac arrangement to create streets that are liveable, playable and where cars act as guests. Check this out.

If someone’s hellbent on making culs-de-sac though, one partial antidote to their blighting is pedestrian, biking and scooting “permeability”. Essentially, you open up a route for humans through the back of the cul-de-sacs, connecting them for people but not for vehicles. Bollards or trees act as filters, blocking access for big things like cars and trucks but letting everything else through.

Ideally you do it well, encouraging eyes on the street and not creating scary alleyways, but instead connections that can easily work as places. (Some good ones here).

But ultimately, the message for planners and developers is: Beware the cul-de-sac. It’s tough for public transport planners, and tough on walkability. Apply with care!


Read more…

  • Interested in bussability and how to make suburbs that aren’t PT dead zones? This is a great piece and hopefully Wellington’s public transport planners (and wannabe councillors) are using all these ideas IRL right now…
  • Useful and short NZTA guidance on pedestrian permeability here.

Do you live in a cul-de-sac? What do you like about what it does for your life? What don’t you like?

4 comments on “Beware the insidious cul-de-sac”

  • Cr Daran Ponter says:

    A number of regional councillors were talking about this very issue last week. The development of “culdesaced” and “crescented” type subdivisions has a real bearing on Metlink’s ability to feed services through in any logical and efficiency manner – Broadmeadows for example presents many challenges.

    Equally, many new subdivisions make no provision for bus routes – turning areas, bus stops etc. So, when Metlink goes to put new services in place we often get push back from people who don’t want a bus stop outside their house.

  • Heather says:

    The two places I’ve lived are both in cul-de-sacs, both with a public path at the end for accessibility but no vehicle traffic. I love the quiet and safety of the area and could not imagine ever living on a through road, much less a main road.

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