As a civil engineer involved in municipal, development, and transportation; one of the most important concepts to remember is that of integrated urban design. Simplified, if just the traffic engineer was responsible for the design, roads might be large enough for the maximum projected traffic demand; if just the public works manager was responsible for the design, the roads might be as straight as possible for easy street sweeping and snow removal, if it was just up to the urban planner, the road might have parklets, a median, narrow driving lanes and wide sidewalks; if it was just up to the home owner on the road, there would be no traffic and the ability to park their car directly outside their house.

The main objective with considering an integrated design is acknowledging that there are competing demands, all of which may be valid and should be carefully considered before the final design is derived. The process for developing a design does become more complicated, but the outcome can be expected to be far superior to one that only considers one viewpoint.

From my experience the standard subdivision and servicing design bylaw does little to address these competing requirements or demands, but instead provides the base template to be used as the starting point, but to develop functional and interesting streetscapes, more detailed consideration is required. Below is a list of many of the considerations used when considering an integrated approach to urban design.


Global Considerations

  • Topography
  • Efficiency in Design
  • Drainage
  • Soil and Geotechnical
  • Reducing Hardscape Surfaces
  • Maintenance and lifespan of assets
  • Cultural Heritage and Tradition
  • Viewscapes and View Corridors
  • Future needs
  • Adjacent land use and Density
  • Road Classification
  • Building setbacks
  • Connectivity

Street Furniture and Appurtenances

  • Utility location and access (manholes etc)
  • Fire Hydrants
  • Streetlighting
  • Landscaping and traffic sight lines
  • Street Trees
  • Building and fence heights and setbacks
  • Driveway locations, widths and materials
  • Sidewalk Location
  • Parklets
  • Surface treatments (intersections / crosswalks)
  • Sidewalk signs and tables
  • Street signs and wayfinding
  • Garbage and Recycling Bins
  • Street Art
  • Retaining Walls
  • Stairways
  • Fencing
  • Powerline location / Undergrounding
Image – CC: La Citta Vita

Traffic and Human Design

  • Traffic Patterns and Projections (road classification)
  • Intersection Design
  • Expected vehicle speeds and a design that informs the driver of this expectation (lane widths curve and corner radii)
  • Pedestrian desire lines
  • Pedestrian Crossing safety
  • Pedestrian speeds and density (sidewalk width, material grade, corner radii)
  • Sidewalk grade
  • Accessible Design
  • Cyclist movements, lanes and separation.
  • Turning movements and intersection functionality / sight distance
  • Driveway frequency relating to pedestrian and through traffic frequency (implementing restrictions on location and or number of driveways)
  • Safety for all road users
  • Emergency vehicle access
  • Transit routes
  • Safe routes to school
  • On-street parking
  • Line painting


  • Snow Removal and Sanding
  • Ice build-up
  • Size of maintenance equipment
  • Landscape Management
  • Sidewalk Repairs
  • Underground Utilities
  • Street sweeping / dust control

Stormwater Management

  • Design storms (Minor and Major)
  • Overland flow paths
  • Permeable Pavers
  • Water Quality Objectives
  • Opportunity for water reuse
  • Stormwater catchbasin type location and spacing
  • The type of curb and gutter if required
  • The type and surface treatment of ditch or swale if required
  • Space for onsite detention or treatment

While not an exhaustive list, these are examples of the level of detail that is required to make a street project great. Each of these topics could probably have its own post to describe the concepts behind the bullet point – maybe in the future!

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

One reply on “62 Considerations for an Integrated Urban Design”

  1. What an interesting list for someone like me who is not a planning engineer but is interested in how we do things.
    Going through the list one item at a time focuses the mind.
    As a pedestrian in my town I recall two items that bugged me at the time. One was pedestrian crossings that had little or no drainage and every time the snow melted left the pedestrian either stepping into six inches (sorry, about 16cms) of icy water or climbing over a snowbank to cross the road, or crossing over an ice sheet.
    My second gripe is the location of the City Hall that is positioned so that few people passing by car even notice it is there. Approaching Downtown, it is obscured by a triangular piece of land with nondescript buildings on it including an area for storage of building supplies.
    I have thought of another gripe: the Seniors’ Village land is located on Columbia Avenue, and the exit from their car park can be downright dangerous. It is on a bend and one cannot see speeding cars coming from the left.
    I have saved this list so that I have an idea of what to look for in plans for the future.
    Thank you, Mike.

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