Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council – Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi Urban Street Design and Mobility Standards Manual

Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, was designed with a street grid in a super-block pattern that was not safe for pedestrians or suitable for the growing population. The Urban Planning Council wished to move the city toward becoming a more walkable and safe environment, but it was hampered by the challenges of existing driver behavior and cultural differences.

The Emirate’s first Urban Street Design Manual – a collaboration among the council, Otak International, Nelson\Nygaard, and Steer Davies Gleave – provides guidance to design streets that create a safe environment for all users, transition from a vehicle-trip based society to a multimodal society, and introduce fine-grained street networks into the existing super-block pattern.

The manual builds on similar efforts in Germany, the UK, Australia, and the US, and advances the principles espoused in the Emirate’s 2030 Plan, also co-authored by Nelson\Nygaard. It takes as its premise that previous design guidance was influenced by documents such as the AASHTO Green Book, which is inappropriate for urban streets where modes of transport other than the automobile are present. The progressive manual introduces the concept of the pedestrian realm as an integral part of the overall street composition, and shows how this and the traveled way are combined to provide a balanced street network for all modes.

Complementary to the manual, Nelson\Nygaard assisted with the redesign of three streets in Abu Dhabi, which provided a feedback loop. The streets were rebuilt at the beginning of 2011. The project also included a training regimen and working with local officials to ensure the successful and consistent application of the manual.