Virginia’s Cul-de-Sac Ban Named Design Idea of the Year

The New York Times has named Virginia’s cul-de-sac ban one of their design ideas of the year for 2009. We agree! While cul-de-sac neighbornoods are perceived as safer, they force cyclists and pedestrians onto busy arterial roads, and make trips within the neighborhood much longer — undoubtedly contributing to the decline in biking and walking over the last 30 years. We’re very pleased that Virginia is taking the lead with this issue.

Where cul-de-sacs already exist, cut-through paths can greatly improve bike and pedestrian connectivity.

Note that bicycle highways was also named as an idea of the year. We’re pleased with that, too!

Update: Tom Bowden’s editorial explains why rethinking the cul-de-sac is such a good idea.

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4 comments… add one
  • Wow! Cant agree with this one! Arlington was built during the cold war in order to ensure of the Ruskees ever did invade, they would get lost on the way to the Pentagon. Arlington can be insanely frustrating to people not use to it. Lots of side roads that go no where. You cannot hop on a side road and cross the county. Traffic is forced off of no-where-going side roads to the main roads. And its fantastic. You dont have people going 45 mph thru your neighborhood to get to the next neighborhood. The traffic in yur neighborhood is yur neighbors. The problem is not cul de sacs and side roads to no where – the problem is poor design. In Arlington the main roads are fantastic, with sidewalks, bus lines, and subways near by. If you are walking, you can cut through a park or a little walk way – the pedestrian gets a cut thru even if the cars do not. It has created a VERY WALKABLE community because walking is safe. In the graphic shown by the NYT, the solution is not more pavement, the solution is a park or a walkway or sidewalk through the middle that lets the pedestrian walk – while ensuring that morons driving to work are not speeding past elementary school children.

  • While Arlington’s local street network often seems chaotic to outsiders and newcomers, Arlington lacks typical cul-de-sac development, and Arlington’s local street connectivity more than complies with VDOT’s new requirements for subdivision street connectivity. In fact, Arlington’s neighborhoods illustrate that residential development with good street connectivity can still have little or no cut-through traffic.

    Moreover, the New York Times’ exaggerated term “cul-de-sac ban” distorts the new VDOT policy and is helping to fuel a misguided push-back by suburban developers and some suburbanites.

  • An excellent article on Arlington’s street network is at
    [] . As the maps clearly show, Arlington’s streets are mostly grid-like and quite unlike suburban cul-de-sacs.

  • I’m concerned about a cul-de-sac ban. The problem with cul-de-sacs isn’t that they mess with the grid. The problem is that they are too small and lack footpath cuth-throughs. I live in a double-dead-end, basically an overgrown cul-de-sac. There are about 40 houses in our neighborhood and it’s perfect. We know our neighbors and the kids can play outside. There’s enough “learning space” for kids to learn how to ride bikes without having to drive to a special location to do so. The kids do play in the street by hordes, so drivers are looking out for them and generally go pretty slowly. My children start being able to walk to their friends’ houses at age 3 or so. Yes, to get to an area immediately outside of our double dead-end requires a detour of close to a mile….but only if you go by car. By foot there are paths and stairs such that a six year old on foot can race a car to a destination and win.

    If you want to encourage walking, make sure there is a good *pedestrian* grid so that people on foot can generally get to their destination “as a crow flies”. But please, keep making the cars run the maze.

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