Written by Dinesh Thanigasalam, Commercial Director for Aligned Assets
Street Naming Conventions
Street naming might seem a fairly straightforward task and an uncontroversial thing to do. It is anything but. This apparently simple task quickly gets caught up in the powers and politics of a region or a nation. Any decision to name a street to accommodate or venerate a person of power and or politician will tend to be met with significant resistance. Large egos and political or tribal loyalties tend to have destabilising and often destructive impact across the world, naming a street is no exception. What should be a relatively innocuous decision becomes emotionally charged. A simple street name turns into a black hole for time, money and common sense. Unfortunately finding street names that would please Donald Trump supporters and Hilary Clinton supporters is unlikely to happen.
This issue occurs across the world. Below are some real-life examples of the controversy caused:
However there are ways to stopping or at least minimising this. I have tried to document some key principles.
- Use local landmarks as a basis for naming
- Use non-controversial historic references for the locality
- Use a neutral numeric based convention as an alternative for the above
- Avoid naming a street after any living or recently deceased person
- Avoid naming a street after a political party, tribe or religion
- Avoid duplication if possible especially within the same area
The best practices in street naming conventions are actually documented in some countries. Some examples are:
The underlying strategy to is avoid controversy. It is worth remembering that famous and powerful people who appear saintly often fall from grace when something in their past or present comes to public attention. Far better to avoid the potential embarrassment in the first place. Using local landmarks and history as a basis for naming is a good place to start. It gives the name context, and acceptance and ownership from local citizens. It does take time and consensus to do however. A neutral numeric based system (1st street, 2nd street) is boring by comparison and might be deemed to be cold and impersonal, but does have the advantage of being very quick to implement and scalable for large volumes as it can be automated.
A more mundane consideration is the avoidance of duplication or similar sounding or spelt names within the same locality. This is easy to do when adopting a numeric convention but more time consuming when manually allocating. Failure to make this assessment will result in confusion for both citizens and businesses.
For more information on software than can name streets in an uncontroversial fashion see https://www.aligned-assets.co.uk/products/snn-international/