So if you were going to start fixing the streets of the United States — making them more safe for human beings, more pleasant, less dominated by speed and fumes and metal — where would you begin to think about it?

American streets don't have to look like this. Photo: waltarrrr via Flickr.

What about starting in the city that has come over time to symbolize the worst excesses of American car culture? What about starting in Los Angeles?

Well, today the Department of Health of the County of Los Angeles released a “Model Design Manual for Living Streets,” a resource for cities that want to make their streets into places where people can lead healthy, active lives:

This manual focuses on all users and all modes, seeking to achieve balanced street design that accommodates cars while ensuring that pedestrians, cyclists and transit users can travel safely and comfortably. This manual also incorporates features to make streets lively, beautiful, economically vibrant as well as environmentally sustainable.

We’re pleased to say that two members of the PPS team — Gary Toth, senior director of transportation initiatives, and project manager Pippa Brashear — contributed to the manual, along with a diverse group of people from around the country who care about making our streets more livable.

Problematic streets can be found everywhere in the country, and this manual is by no means just about Los Angeles. It’s is available at no cost to any municipality that wants to use it, and can be adapted to pretty much any situation:

Cities may use this manual in any way that helps them update their current practices, including adopting the entire manual, adopting certain chapters in full or part, modifying or customizing chapters to suit each city’s needs….

Since many municipalities lack the resources to undertake a major revision of their manuals, this model manual offers a template for local jurisdictions to tailor to meet their specific needs. Additionally, to lower the cost-burden to cities, the manual there are recommendations to maximize benefits and minimize costs associated with street design. Vital streets, innovative parking policies, and desirable neighborhoods resulting from living streets can increase revenues for the cities above current levels. Research finds that cities often experience increased economic development after adopting elements of living streets.

Sound good? Start downloading.

Photo: waltarrrr via Flickr.