Sustainable Streets

North End

North End, Boston. Image credit: Walkscore

Small streets attract people and bicycles, not cars. Building in a compact form creates a more livable environment where people can obtain many if not all of their daily needs nearby. There’s no need to drive to the grocery store, library, bank, or cafĂ©. Many people who live in small streets find it unnecessary to own a car. If a destination is not within walking or bicycling distance, compact neighborhoods composed of small streets are often well-served by public transit.

Because they encourage a more compact building pattern, small streets achieve living environments that are both dense and livable. With small streets, cities can use their limited supply of land efficiently and do not have to resort to building skyscrapers that require complex and expensive equipment to operate and maintain. The buildings along small streets can be renovated and adapted to new uses over time, enabling them to last centuries.

Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Image Credit: Fernando Galleano

Small streets are more financially sustainable than conventional streets in the long-term. They cost less to maintain than conventional streets because they use less paving material and suffer less wear and tear from car and truck traffic. Small streets have more residents and businesses contributing taxes to maintaining infrastructure and services, making them more self-sufficient.

Short water and sewer lines can connect many buildings in small street neighborhoods. Unsightly power lines can be laid underground and out of sight because there are many users in a small area. Small streets can be arranged with special attention to the climate of a region, keeping a place warm or cool and protecting people and buildings from wind or rain. Residents of small streets in places around the globe lived successfully without air conditioning for hundreds of years.