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  1. #1
    ahumphreys is offline Newbie
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    Default Defining "Street," "Road," "Avenue," "Boulevard"

    I have noticed that variations of the thread asking for the difference between "streets" and "roads" has come up time and again, and I was hoping to contribute something of value to the discussion about the definitions for "Street," "Road," "Avenue," and "Boulevard."

    In modern usage, many people use "streets" and "roads" as mere synonyms. Historically, however, and to those involved in either the "streets" or "roads" movements, as well as to planners and transportation people, "streets" and "roads" have very different meanings.

    "Roads" are, generically, pathways dedicated solely for the purpose of travelling on, and are suitable for travel with vehicles. Paths intended strictly for pedestrians, such as trails, board walks, or promenades are NOT roads.
    Modern examples of "pure" roads would include railways and limited access highways. In other words, in modern usage, roads are exclusive places for the movement of vehicles. Pedestrians are either not welcome on roads, or else they are second class users.

    "Streets" are a uniquely urban phenomenon. Streets only exist in cities, towns and villages. Streets are public spaces which link private spaces together in an urban space, and are spaces through which we can also move people and goods through. As public spaces, streets are inclusive spaces. A "woonerf," or "shared space," is as close to a "true" street as is currently possible.

    English is full of examples of terms and expressions which re-enforce these definitions: Rural roads vs city streets, street market, street walker, street smarts, taking it to the street, street cafe, street meat, street car, long and winding road, street gangs vs highwaymen, street person vs hobo, roadside attraction, on-street parking, street lights. There are still many others, and I'll let the reader find these.

    "Avenues" were a type of grand street the way a ballroom is a type of grand room. Although the meaning has become diluted over time, Avenues were once special types of streets to a city, these would have extra width (wider allowance), and would attract a lot of on street activity.

    "Boulevard" once meant a tree lined avenue with a wide centre median, but has since lost that meaning. In modern usage, a Boulevard is an arterial, that is it is a street that operates mostly as a high capacity road.

    Because of the (relatively) recent introduction of the motor car, we have segregated motor-traffic from pedestrians and we created spaces that are types of hybrids of both streets and roads. Operationally our streets act, to varying degrees, as both streets and roads at the same time.

    In law, many jurisdictions only have the idea of places where motor vehicles operating as roads (or as highways.) Motor-vehicle operators, having only a "wind shield perspective," view all of the spaces they drive through only as roads.

    "Drivers" and "motorists," often align themselves in the "roads movement" camp. The AAA or CAA are current examples of groups in this movement.

    Other people will ally themselves in one of the many "streets movements," such as the "complete streets" movement. Cyclists, transit users, and new urbanists are often found in this movement.

    In addition, the roads vs streets movements are often indicative of the suburban vs rural divide we have in our modern cities.

    I hope that this helps to explain things for people who are looking to better understand the differences (and similarities) of the modern and historical usage of the terms "streets" and "roads"!

  2. #2
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Defining "Street," "Road," "Avenue," "Boulevard"

    In short, "roads" go places. "Streets" are places.

  3. #3
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    easybreakable is offline Member
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    Thumbs up Re: Defining "Street," "Road," "Avenue," "Boulevard"

    Interesting short article... Would love to see more posts like this one regarding other terms, speaking about myself as an ESL learner, this language keeps fascinating me!

  4. #4
    ahumphreys is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Defining "Street," "Road," "Avenue," "Boulevard"

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    In short, "roads" go places. "Streets" are places.
    Yes. You would be quite correct.

    Roads connect one or more destinations.

    Streets serve as both a destination in and of itself, as well as a means of getting to one.

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