Urban Street Design in Modern China: Standards, Practices and Outcomes

  • Yi Zhang

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis investigates and discusses the current design approaches and development trends of urban streets in China. As the methodological focus, multiple case studies and interviews are used to examine actual street design practice to identify the development policy bias of local governments. Since the 1990s, the great economic achievement in most Chinese cities has evoked significant growth in the number of automobiles, as well as the increasingly serious problems of road casualties and congestion. The traffic-engineering-based design approach which used to be widely adopted and implemented in western countries has dominated the development patterns of urban streets in modern China. The conventional paradigm exclusively focuses on the traffic function in urban streets resulting in morphological changes to the urban circulation environment and keeps on neglecting non-vehicular movement and non-traffic needs. The automobile- dominated urban circulation environment has had negative economic, social and public health impacts. Thus, a paradigm shift which calls for a more inclusive design approach for urban streets which balances functions of place and movement is urgently needed in China. To determine the challenges and opportunities for the new paradigm, this research identifies the cultural, political and technical factors for the traffic-centred design trends and the policy bias. Based on this, policy recommendations and an agenda for revolutionary change for achieving better design practice for urban streets in post-modern China are suggested.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMichael Hebbert (Supervisor) & Cecilia Wong (Supervisor)


  • urban street design
  • standards
  • practices
  • paradigm shift

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