Most American cities have a very organized and structured street grid system. In these street grid systems roads run at right angles to each other. In most of these street plans Avenues and Streets are used to indicate which roads run in which direction within the grid system.
This grid street pattern is visualized beautifully in Data Stuff’s Street Network Orientation by Road Type. In Street Network Orientations by Road Type small compass roses are used to show the orientation of different road types in 25 U.S. cities. In most cities you can see how Streets and Avenues run in different directions within a strict grid system.
In Europe most major cities have developed organically since medieval times without much central planning of the road network. Hence, unlike American cities, European cities usually don’t have a regimented street grid system. One exception to this rule is the English city of Milton Keynes. This is mainly because Milton Keynes is a new city which was planned and built from the 1960s onward.
Because Milton Keynes was a planned city, unlike most UK towns, it actually does have a grid street pattern. The city’s grin plan consists of 11 roads running roughly north–south and 10 roads running roughly east–west. These roads are designated as ‘V roads’ (vertical) and ‘H roads’ (horizontal). All the vertical (V) roads are named as ‘Streets’ and all the horizontal (H) roads are named as ‘Ways’.
On the map above I’ve colored Streets blue and Ways red so that you can see the Milton Keynes street grid system more clearly. The dark blue road on the map is Watling Street. This street existed before Milton Keynes began to emerge in the 1960s. In fact this road is nearly 2000 years old. Watling Street was built by the Romans in around AD 47 or 48.
The existing Roman road of Watling Street is one reason why Milton Keynes’ grid system doesn’t run strictly north-south and west-east. Watling Street, the railway line and the M1 motorway all run on a north-west to south-east alignment. The Milton Keynes street grid system therefore uses this same alignment rather than a strict north-south alignment.
The Milton Keynes grid system is also what has been called a ‘lazy grid system’. Unlike most American cities the roads in Miltin Keynes don’t follow a strict orthogonal grid with strict straight line. This is because the roads in the grid system were built to follow more naturally the flow of the land (valleys and hills etc) where practical.