An article by William T. Eubanks in the March 2010 issue of APA's Planning magazine describes how his firm used a slow patch to visit a variety of small towns to document their street dimensions. In this way, urban edge studio built a case study library that gives specific designs and dimensions for great streets and public places.
Although the focus of their work is in the South, we face many of the same issues here in the North:
". . . the most useful result of this experience is our realization that most towns are currently set up for failure. Many towns have wonderful, successful downtowns that possess character, charm, and a true sense of place. They have good human scale, are walkable, and are truly memorable. They also have, at their fringes (and sometimes along the exact same streets), the worst kind of placeless, scaleless, auto-mobile-dominated sprawl that one could possibly imagine. . . "Why?". . . One answer lies in existing ordinances. Almost without exception the compact, urban, walkable downtown areas we admire are now illegal. They simply can't be replicated under the current regulations."
To see the full article and learn more about urban edge studio and the "small towns project, go to www.urban-edge-studio.com.
(Forgive no hyperlink here - my blog program seems to be in a funk.)