Make your own streets in Abu Dhabi

If you're like me, you've often looked at a street and thought, If only I could make a lane diagram that didn't look terrible. Though I don't think many people are like me, I have some friends at heart in the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. The ADUPC has made an online tool so you can make your own street cross-sections, and I am a fan. Expect to see a lot more of these diagrams from here on. The key to building a good cross-section is flexibility. A planner needs to show sidewalks, street furniture spaces, bike lanes of all classes, curbs, medians, transit-only lanes and, of course, regular traffic lanes. These need to be adjustable to any width, and we need to be able to show accessories. The ADUPC tool lets you adjust down to a tenth of a meter and add trees, grass, light poles, coloration, and patterns.

I don't like that I can't show the results in feet. American planners of the professional and armchair variety know their lanes in terms of feet: 12 feet for a freeway lane, 10 feet for a surface street lane, etc. It's an adjustment to go metric, and it adds an unfortunate barrier to what is otherwise straightforward.

Yesterday I posted about a short stretch of Second Street. While it was easy see from Google Streetview how small a space we'd reserved for pedestrians, I didn't describe the width of the lanes. Even if I had, the point can be lost in a cloud of numbers. A diagram presents all that information in a much more concise fashion.

Second Street as it is now, with widths in meters. The lanes vary a bit through this block, but not much. Image from ADUPC.

At the top is the total width of the right-of-way, 16.9 meters. Below each element is its width in meters: the three lanes, the dirt path on the south side of the street and the grassy filler space in the north side. The widths are approximations from the tools on Google Maps.

Now we can easily see that this bit of road is actually quite wide. Since lane widths on a surface street are usually only 10 feet (3 meters), we have quite a bit to work with.

Using the same tool, I can reconfigure how much space is dedicated to what. I came up with the cheapest solution: add a 6.5 foot (well, 2 meter) sidewalk to the existing road. To accommodate, I narrowed the lanes to 3.5 meters apiece. It's above average, but it's a difficult curve and drivers might need a bit more wiggle room as they come off Miracle Mile.

It's really easy to add a sidewalk.

But maybe you'd like to do something else with this stretch. Perhaps you want to move the planter to be a space between the road and the sidewalk. Perhaps you'd like to narrow all the lanes to 3 meters and widen the sidewalk. Or perhaps you'd like to widen the lanes a bit more, maybe squeeze in another travel lane through there. That's the wonderful thing: you can easily show us what you'd like to build on this roadway, or any roadway.

So go to it.