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What makes a street a street and an avenue an avenue?
They're not just named at random.
There’s no rulebook for building a city,
but there are naming conventions that are surprisingly strong, ones you’ll find across the world.
There are exceptions, but if you comb through postal service guides, state departments of transportation, and dictionaries, you can start to decipher a code behind our roads.
It starts simple: a road can be anything that connects two points.
A way is a small side street off a road. But then things build up.
Streets are public ways that have buildings on both sides. And you’ll recognize them because they often
run perpendicular to avenues, which will have trees or buildings on both sides too. The cardinal directions —
North, South, East, or West — vary by city, but that perpendicular pattern of streets and avenues is common to many places.
This is a boulevard — a big wide street with trees on both sides. You’ll find a median in a lot of boulevards, too.
It’s basically the opposite of a lane, which is a narrow road, often in a rural area.
A drive takes its cues from the environment — it’s a long winding road that might have its route shaped by a nearby mountain or lake.
That might lead to a terrace: a street that follows the top of a slope.
A place, however, is a road or a street with no throughway (basically a dead end).
Meanwhile, a court will end in a circle or loop, without a throughway.
It’s like a cousin to a plaza or square — an open public space that’s surrounded by businesses or streets.
And all of these roads connect to the wider world. A frontage road (or access road or service road) runs parallel to a larger road, providing local access.
That larger public road might be a highway — a major public road that connects larger cities.
An interstate is part of a highway system, but it’s defined by being a federally funded network of roads.
It often goes between states, but it doesn’t have to — Hawaii has Interstate H1, and you don’t want to take an interstate to get there.
A turnpike is part of a highway, but it usually means you’ll hit a tollbooth, while
a freeway is distinguished by size, with 2 or more lanes on each side.
A beltway, meanwhile, is a highway that surrounds a whole city (like a belt).
A parkway is a decorated public road, usually called that for the parkland on the side of the road. Wanna know why you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?
Parkways were originally more pastoral, and they had that parkland on the side, and driveways were often longer, making them “ways” off of “drives.”
A junction is where two roads cross — in an interchange, it’s at a different height, while at an intersection it’s at the same height.
Causeways are different raised roads that pass across low or swampy ground, or water.
And the rest of the most common roads are the odds and ends.
Crescents are winding roads that usually resemble...well, a crescent, and often attach to a road at both ends.
An alley is a small pathway between buildings, which might not be driveable.
And then there’s an esplanade — a long open path or road near the ocean, that’s also called a promenade if it’s primarily for walking.
All these names aren’t there to confuse us, but to make roads and cities clearer.
And now you won’t just know where you are, but how you got there, too.
So these street naming conventions are just that — they are conventions, they are not hard and fast rules, and there are plenty of exceptions.
And that is the case in Tuscon, Arizona, because in Tuscon, the streets run East/West, the avenues run North/South,
and something called the Stravenue — postal abbreviation “STRA” — runs diagonally.
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How streets, roads, and avenues are different

219 Folder Collection
liufei published on May 7, 2017
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