Have you ever wondered where your street got its name? A street’s name plays a huge role in its identity. It’s how it can be found by the outside world. The name resonates with the residents. There’s a certain level of immortality attached to it, too.
First, let’s look at the supposed differences between roads, streets, lanes, avenues and boulevards. In theory, a road is something that connects two points. Simple enough. Streets are public roads with buildings on each side. Avenues are the same, but run perpendicular to streets. Boulevards are wide streets (or avenues), often with a median. Lanes are the smaller version of a boulevard.
The duty of bestowing roads with their actual names usually falls with the land developers who planned, financed, designed and built them. Often these developers opt to name streets after their nearest and dearest, offering a glimpse of recognition and legacy to their wives, girlfriends and loved ones.
However, developers do not get the final say. The names are submitted to the relevant city planning departments, including building, engineering and public works. This process (unsurprisingly) takes quite a bit of time from start to finish.
The departments with ultimate vetoing power are the emergency services. If the police or fire teams decide that a name is not unique and intelligible enough to be quickly found in an emergency, it will not stick.
Another factor that can hamper developers’ creative outputs are local themes. Some cities and towns want their streets to be named after types of birds (Blue Jay Street, Robin Road), for example, or to have a beach feel (Ocean Drive, Seabreeze Avenue). In Washington D.C., all 50 states are represented with a street name.
Across the United States, the most common inspiration for most streets is trees, and you'll find an Oak Street or Maple Drive in almost every city. Almost all cities also have a numbered street system. In fact, the most common street name in the U.S. is 2nd Street or Second Street. What happened to all the first streets, you ask? They are often called something like Main or Broadway instead.
Other common influences include landmarks (Hill Road, Canal Street), politicians (particularly Washington, as well as local government) and celebrated figures (Dr. King comes to mind). Local industries (Vineyard Street) or institutions (College Avenue) also have an effect.
Street names can add extra appeal for developers who are trying to sell their properties. Names such as Ocean View or Buckingham Drive can make the areas seem more desirable.
Once names are set, they are difficult to change. The impact on maps and local businesses (websites, business cards) has to be considered. Therefore, it’s probably better to choose an alluring name at the first time of asking.