Stroads and Giving Roads a Diet

56 Street in Tsawwassen serves as an example of a stroad

Stroads and Giving Roads a Diet: Article by Corbin Auriti

[thank you to Corbin for submitting his first article for the Del-POP Dispatch in April]


As unintuitive as it may seem, sometimes the best way to help traffic congestion woes is to give the roads a bit of a diet. Just like us people, if you have a cupboard full of snacks to eat, you will end up doing so in a concerningly short amount of time. That same logic applies to traffic engineering, the more road there is available with lanes and width, the more it often gets used to capacity.

Unfortunately, we have made many streets into stroads that fail to be an efficient route for automobiles and fail to be a place for people and commerce.

Stroad is a mix of the word Street which is a place people want to be where you may live, socialize, and conduct commerce, and a Road which is traditionally an efficient route of travel.

As a recent City News Vancouver article explained, “They’re not streets and they’re not roads. Call them “stroads”, frustrating for everyone who uses them and bad for local economies.  “They’re the futon of transportation alternatives, it doesn’t do anything well,” chuckles Gordon Price, an urban planner with Simon Fraser University’s City Program. The term was coined by Minnesota-based traffic engineer Charles Marohn and Price says while a futon is an uncomfortable couch and an uncomfortable bed, stroads are too slow to get around efficiently and too fast to make them a pleasant place to be.”

A great example of a Street where people have a sense of place is 48 Ave in Ladner, which feels like a place you and your family or friends could spend the day hanging out. 

For efficient travel by car or truck, one of the most pleasant Roads may be Highway 17A on a lot of the north/south stretch (at least outside of rush-hour) being as there is extraordinarily little in terms of conflict points.

Now in terms of a throughway that is neither pleasant to drive, nor hang out, we can take 56 St in Tsawwassen as an example of a Stroad. It is not pleasant to visit with people due to traffic noise and speed, parking lots to contend with, and intersections galore. Driving may also be uncomfortable as there are many conflict points with intersections, driveways and people sometimes randomly crossing at non-crosswalks, meaning you must be always on extra high alert. What is the solution to such tumultuous Stroads? A diet and lifestyle change!

Large infrastructural changes are necessary for more efficient commerce, outdoor socializing and the economy at large as good mixed-used business centers that encourage people first instead of automobiles are more economically productive.

Source: Litman, Todd Alexander. “Economic Value of Walkability.” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, vol. 1828, no. 1, 20 Apr. 2017, https://doi.org/10.3141/1828-01

Want to watch a compelling video explainer on this? Check out this video by Not Just Bikes

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