road design standards
First the Basics:  Best Transportation Practices1
Practice 1:  Design the street network with multiple connections and relatively direct routes.
Practice 2:  Space through-streets no more than a half mile apart, or the equivalent route density in a curvilinear network.
Practice 3:  Use traffic calming measures liberally.
Practice 4:  Keep speeds on local streets down to 20 mph.
Practice 5:  Keep speeds on arterials and collectors down to 35 mph (at least inside communities).
Practice 6:  Keep all streets as narrow as possible, and never more than four travel lanes wide.
Practice 7:  Align streets to give buildings energy-efficient orientations.
Practice 8:  Avoid using traffic signals wherever possible and always space them for good traffic progression.
Practice 9:  Provide networks for pedestrians and bicyclists as good as the network for motorists.
Practice 10:  Provide pedestrians and bicyclists with shortcuts and alternatives to traviel along high-volume streets.
Practice 11:  Incorporate transit-oriented design features.
Practice 12:  Establish Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs at employment centers.

"Traffic Calming" Slows Traffic Down
To provide a safer and more accessible environment for walking and biking, many American cities are recognizing the virtues of "traffic calming" measures that slow traffic down, restrict the areas in which cars are allowed, and otherwise manages the flow of traffic and its negative impact on communities.  A variety of methods exist including, narrowing of streets, traffic circles, raised center pavements and barriers and road bumps. These methods have been used successfully in Europe. In his design for Laguna West in Sacramento, CA, Peter Calthorpe used tree wells to both slow traffic and eventually (when the trees reach full cover) cool the streets.3

Pedestrian Malls Help Create Vibrant Downtowns
Pedestrian or walking malls prohibit or greatly restrict car use on designated streets.  More prevalent in Europe than in the U.S., these malls help decrease dependency on the auto by opening up safe space for walking, shopping, and socializing.  Several pedestrian malls exist in the U.S.: Charlottesville, Virginia; Burlington, Vermont; and Boulder, Colorado are good examples. After closing downtown streets to through traffic, these cities have seen a more vibrant downtown economy as well as a mixture of housing and commercial areas.4

Bike Friendly Design 
Davis, (CA), Boulder (CO), and Eugene, (OR), have broad bike lanes and plenty of bike parking -- infrastructure that bicyclists need to make shopping and other activities feasible without an automobile.5

Public Bicycles 
Some cities -- Portland (OR); Austin (TX); Madison (WI); Orlando, (FL) --have tried experimenting with providing public bicycles at transit stops and other public places.6

Street Design Promotes Street Life
Short blocks on a grid layout can enhance downtown street life, as Portland illustrates well.  The city was platted in 200-foot blocks and the result is a very open and walkable city. 7

Designs For Rural Roads
Planners and engineers routinely apply suburban road standards in designing new rural roads and improving existing ones. New roads are unnecessarily wide and often devoid of the magnificent trees and rough stone walls that characterize many country byways. Alternatives rural road design can retain small town features and provide bike and pedestrian safety as well.  For example, in the 1980's, a large-lot, residential development was approved for the northern edge of the historic hamlet of Shekomeko, in Duchess County, NY. While the development was in keeping with the rural character of the area, the access to the residential enclave was suburban, including a wide entrance, curbs and gutters, and paved with asphalt. The Duchess Land Conservancy worked with the County Highway Department to design a plan that preserved the hamlet's core and increased pedestrian safety. Removing the entrance's curbs and gutters, retaining rocks and vegetation, and reducing the development's entrance from 125 feet to 25 feet maintained the rustic feel of the hamlet.8

1 Reid Ewing, Best Development Practices (Chicago, IL:  Planners Press, 1996) p.53.
2 Timothy Beatley and Kristy Manning, The Ecology of Place: Planning for Environment, Economy, and Community (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1997), pp 65.
3 Ibid., p. 116.
4 Ibid., pp .65-66.
5 Ibid., pp. 68-69.
6 Ibid., pp. 68-69.
7 Ibid., p. 67.
8 Dutchess Land Conservancy, Inc., "Design Guide for Rural Roads" (NY: Duchess Land Conservancy, 1998), p.175.