Complete street design that works – a look at Strasbourg, France

Looking more closely at Polk Street, which I ride on my bicycle twice a week, it reminded me of a street named Rue du Faubourg de Pierre in Strasbourg, France, that I recently visited. Both streets have similar widths, from 65 to 68 feet, and similar uses.

Aerial view of a portion of Rue du Faubourg de Pierre, Strasbourg
Aerial view of Polk Street at Sacramento Street, San Francisco

In Europe, bike lanes are often protected from traffic by locating them next to the sidewalk, often times raised to the same level as the sidewalk. Parallel parking along the street serves as a buffer for both cyclists and pedestrians, and both have the right-of-way for right-turning vehicles. This arrangement typically translates to slower speeds for bikes and potential minor conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians but on the upside there are fewer severe collisions between bikes and cars, and narrower widths of bike lanes are possible due to their integration with the sidewalk. Rue du Faubourg de Pierre uses this layout quite successfully and connects to a larger bike network within the city.

The bike lane is integrated in the sidewalk and the zone adjacent to the street is used for parallel car parking, bike racks, street furniture, trees, and bulb-outs.

Traffic lanes are 9’ wide, slowing average speeds down, the sidewalks are typically 9’ on each side, and bike lanes are 5’ wide. The bike lane has a smooth asphalt surface lined with a tactile strip, while concrete pavers are used on the sidewalk to distinguish the zones for biking and walking. Parallel parking is 8’ wide with tree pockets in-between the spaces, which further narrows the street visually. In some locations, the sidewalk extends along the width of the parallel parking zone to accommodate bike parking and bulb-outs.

Parallel parking along Rue du Faubourg de Pierre is slightly raised and uses pavers instead of asphalt, which visually narrows the street.

At intersections, the same sidewalk pavers are used for pedestrian crossings and the surface is flush with the sidewalk level to ensure accessibility. Because traffic speeds are generally low, the lack of curbs does not seem to be a problem for the separation of car and pedestrian traffic.

Pedestrian crossings integrate seamlessly with the sidewalks.

This layout intends to slow down all traffic including bike traffic and supports a lively ground floor retail environment. It is proof that retail in dense neighborhoods can flourish if customers can easily walk, use public transit, and bike to the businesses they want to visit and don’t rely on being able to park their car close to the business they want to visit. The convenience of driving to the area is still possible but might sometimes mean the inconvenience of having to walk a few blocks or find time-limited parking.

In some locations where where wider travel lanes are needed to accommodate bus stops, the separated bike lane is directed onto the street.
Shared bus lane and bike lane, which is marked with shared lane markings ("sharrows").