Monday, December 3, 2018

Narrow Streets of Ann Arbor

I find that the narrower a street, the more pleasant it probably is. To walk, to play, to live. Strong Towns shows examples of narrow streets around the world and, in calling for new residential streets to be “as narrow as possible” notes:
If two cars going in opposite directions can pass each other at more than 10 mph, on a residential street that doesn't serve any significant through traffic, the street is too wide. I think we should celebrate older neighborhoods that are built this way, and emulate the model going forward. It's cheap, it's effective, and it's simple—very few ingredients required.
So where are the narrow streets of Ann Arbor? I recently biked down Bucholz Court, near West Park.

One block in length, Bucholz Court has a slender sidewalk on one side, a single one-way lane of traffic, and room on one side to squeeze in a parked car. The homes nestle up to the street, with small setbacks:

This is a rare Ann Arbor street where young kids could safely play ball and ride bikes. Contributing factors include:
* This street is a destination, with little plausible through-traffic.
* The narrowness slows down drivers (both by making it “feel” slow and by making it hard to maneuver).
* The one-way lane makes it easier to keep an eye on traffic.

Honorable Mention: Murray Ave
While not quite as skinny, I must take the opportunity to recognize Murray Ave as an iconic Ann Arbor narrow-ish street. It’s a few blocks long, spanning Washington and Liberty on the Old West Side:

Murray has a single one-way traffic lane, plus one parking lane. It’s significantly wider than Bucholz Court, as it has a wider lane, two full sidewalks, and the parking is more prominent. But it’s narrower than most residential blocks. And the lovely old homes have small front and side setbacks that contribute to a cozy feeling and make the street feel narrow. All in all, it might be the most attractive residential street in the city. This street view hardly does it justice:

What other Ann Arbor or Ypsi streets are notably narrow or have that narrow feeling? If you know of other similarly-narrow streets in town, please share in the comments.


  1. If you buy a home on a busy street then act surprised when you find traffic there, you have a hole in your head.
    Ann Arbor's recent trend of obstructive construction is not going to, in the end, hamper the city's growth.

    1. edit, not going to end well, and in the end...

  2. Ferdon St between Washtenaw and Stadium is pretty narrow! And I imagine some of the streets connecting to it are more so - Ferdon is straight enough that it gets used as a pass-through sometimes (Google Maps keeps putting me on it).

  3. Ridgeway off of Geddes Ave is narrow and it makes a hairpin turn at the bottom of a steep hill. For some odd reason it's not one-way. It's idyllic and Arb-adjacent, though many of the newer houses on it kind of wall it in.

  4. Adams Ave runs (L-shaped) from Hill to Main. Pretty narrow. Kind of a student-slum neighborhood though, not a lot of kids going to be running around.

  5. Hamilton Pl, right downtown south of AADL. It's a 1 block, 1 way street. My friends lived there in undergrad and we had a party there every week (ah college) and played beer pong and football IN THE STREET because that's how little traffic there was.

  6. I came here to say what Hanna said first: Ferdon between Stadium and Washtenaw. It would be a popular cut through street if it weren't very narrow, in terrible shape, and always lined with cars on the one side that allows parking. As it is no one goes at all fast on it.

  7. Orchard street off Virgina (from a former Murray resident)