‘Stroads:’ The Worst of Both Worlds

An urban planning critic says the U.S. should build streets for people to live on, and roads to move traffic quickly.

1 minute read

May 15, 2024, 12:00 PM PDT

By DA Hedges


One-story strip mall with red awnings.

billtster / Adobe Stock

Wherever Charles Marohn travels in America, he finds a similar type of road, lined with strip malls, fast-food joints, gas stations, car dealers and dying malls.

Marohn calls these arterial roads “stroads” — a mix of a neighborhood street, where people want to live and shop, and a road, which is designed to move traffic quickly between two places. Stroads are trying to do two things at once, he says, and failing at both.

They repel pedestrians and bicyclists. But they also fail to move traffic quickly the way a road should, says Marohn, a civil engineer turned writer and speaker, and the founder of the nonprofit Strong Towns, which advocates for more livable and resilient urban development. Cars can rev up to 45 mph or so but frequently must brake for red lights, a frustrating and dangerous stop-and-go.

He blames traffic engineers for ignoring the way roaring traffic tends to decrease the value of adjacent neighborhoods and commercial districts, making them less safe and attractive to people who want to reside, stroll, shop or dine in calmer surroundings. That, he says, destroys the economic value of land and wastes public funds spent on ill-conceived roads.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024 in The Wall Street Journal

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