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Franklin Street 1892

The streets in and around the Carolina campus should be simple and uncluttered. A large campus needs streets to connect its parts. Clear and simple streets that work with the overall built structures of the campus can make navigation easier, without the need for signage at every corner. Street hierarchy should also complement the overall plan of the campus; few, if any, primary streets, some secondary streets and mostly tertiary streets. The overall goal should be to make the campus a pedestrian-oriented place.

Streets should be as narrow as possible, lined with trees and pedestrian-oriented. Wide streets without trees create a gulf that separates both sides. If a street needs many lanes, a center median should be considered. Planted with street trees, it will allow pedestrians a place to stand if unable to cross all lanes of traffic. Trees and narrower streets also slow traffic, which is more friendly to pedestrians.

In most cases, streets should be lined with buildings, giving them a spatial character. The result joins the two sides rather than separates them. This kind of streetscape also slows traffic, eases navigation and encourages more pedestrian activity. Locating main building entrances and public and/or commercial functions on the street further provides a sense of place.

Streets are part of the open-space network and should be as carefully designed as quadrangles and courtyards. Two good examples on the Carolina campus are Franklin Street and Cameron Avenue. Franklin, though a busy street, has an intimate and dynamic feel. Cameron is a quintessential campus street where students go out of their way to walk.

The portion of Franklin Street that runs through downtown Chapel Hill is an example of a street that satisfies many functions and typifies the intermediate level street. The 60-foot pavement on Franklin Street accommodates four traffic lanes and two parking lanes. Its width could easily deter pedestrians and create a barrier. However, the four lanes of moving vehicles (around 20,000 on a typical day, which is close to its traffic-carrying limit in peak periods) are mitigated by crowds of people on the adjacent sidewalks and parked vehicles on both sides that buffer pedestrians from traffic. The continuous building face, tree-lined street and parallel parking invite both the pedestrian and the motorist to slow down.

Motorists could speed along Franklin Street, but they rarely do. The street is posted at 25 miles per hour, but probably few motorists are aware of this. This can be attributed to the lively landscape, multiple traffic lights and pedestrians, which all deter speeding.

Franklin Street also accommodates larger vehicles, hosting both buses and trucks. It is one of the few successful urban streets in the Triangle and an example of how a busy street, if carefully designed, can satisfy all its users.

Franklin Street
Typical Section
Cameron Avenue represents the ideal street. It gracefully satisfies the needs of all users, motorists and pedestrians alike. Its design and streetscape subtly alert motorists to pedestrians. Motorists know that it is not the route to take in a hurry. Using the street adds to the pleasure of the day.

Cameron Avenue is two-way but only about 20 feet wide, with low granite curbing and trees with boughs that form a canopy over the street. Set behind the trees that line the street, there are sidewalks on each side. The buildings are set close to the street and add to the streetscape. The speed limit is 25 miles per hour, reinforced by several mid-block stop signs. At certain times of the day, large volumes of students pour across the street with little fear for their safety.

Cameron Avenue primarily serves short local trips. While no traffic count is available, the volume is probably less than 5,000 vehicles a day. This represents the environmentally sound capacity of the street, given its importance in fulfilling many non-vehicular needs.

Cameron Avenue
Typical Section
  • For walks along streets, a buffer should exist between traffic and sidewalks, ideally with street trees providing a canopy for motorists and pedestrians alike.
  • A second row of trees on the other side of the sidewalk creates a sense of protected enclosure.
  • Small service roads should be designed as wide pedestrian paths.
  • Crosswalks should be provided at regular intervals to slow traffic and help knit together both sides of the street.
  • Pedestrian-scaled lighting and benches should be placed at regular intervals.
  • New paths should continue the use of brick as paving material.
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