Communities are asking that motor vehicle speeds be reduced on their neighborhood
streets, that streets be made accessible to persons with disabilities, and
that streetscapes be improved to make them more inviting to pedestrians.
Some of the most important issues to the public are safety, access, and
aesthetics. This chapter discusses some of the issues related to setting
priorities and implementing needed pedestrian improvements.
“Getting started” can be daunting—the needs are overwhelming,
resources are scarce, and staff time is limited. Every community is faced
with the questions of “Where do I start?” and “How do
I get going?” While it is not the intent of this guide to provide
an exhaustive discussion of implementation strategies, some direction is
Since all pedestrian needs will not be able to be addressed immediately,
project priorities need to be established. To create priorities requires
several program objectives:
One objective should be to reduce the number and severity
of crashes involving pedestrians. To accomplish this will require: (1)
a good understanding of the types of crashes that are occurring in your
community, and (2) application of appropriate countermeasures to address
these crashes. The information provided in this guide is intended to help
select the countermeasures that will be most effective in addressing selected
types of crash problems.
A second objective should be to create an accessible
community where all pedestrians, including those with disabilities, can
reach their desired destinations. Typically, this begins with being able
to walk safely along streets (i.e., sidewalks) and across streets at intersections
and other appropriate locations.
It is not enough to simply have a safe, accessible community—it should
also be an aesthetically pleasing place to live and work. Landscaping,
lighting, and other pedestrian amenities help create a “livable community” and
should be considered when making pedestrian improvements.
One Step at a Time
To create a safe, walkable community, take one step at a time. Sidewalks,
curb bulb-outs, and other pedestrian improvements are installed intersection
by intersection, block by block. Individually, they do not create a safe,
livable community. Collectively, they create the infrastructure needed
for a great place to work, play, and do business. In other words, the whole
pedestrian system is greater than the sum of its parts.
Be very sensitive to community concerns. Public participation will build
community pride and ownership that is essential to
long-term success. Some of the problems identified in this guide will
not be an issue in your community and some of the tools may be perceived
as too expensive (at least initially). There probably will be measures
that your community puts on hold for a few years until a community consensus
is reached. Conversely, there probably will be measures that your community
would like to pursue that are not even mentioned in this planning guide.
It is very important to produce immediate deliverables that people can
see. For example, a new section of sidewalk or a freshly painted crosswalk
is visible, while a transportation plan is a paper document that may never
be seen or appreciated by the public. To keep its momentum, a program needs
some “quick wins.” They create the sense that something is
happening and that government is responsive.
- The Walkability Checklist can quickly identify some
of the more obvious deficiencies in your community.
- Another useful tool to get things started is to host a walkability
audit in your community.
- Access issues: A good introduction to accessibility and universal design.
- A more comprehensive set of guidelines for achieving full accessibility
from the US Access Board:
- Aesthetics: California’s Local Government Commission has some
great resources on street design and livability.
There are many ways to accomplish projects. Be creative; take advantage
of opportunities as they present themselves. Here are some suggestions:
Regulation of New Development and Redevelopment
Developers can be required to install public infrastructure such as
sidewalks, curb ramps, and traffic signals. In addition, zoning requirements
can be written to allow for or require narrower streets, shorter blocks,
and mixed-use development. Encouraging developers and community leaders
to focus on basic pedestrian needs will benefit the community and increase
the attractiveness of the developments themselves.
Consider expanding/initiating annual programs to make small, visible
improvements. Examples include sidewalk replacement programs, curb-ramp
programs, annual tree-planting programs, etc. This creates momentum and
community support. Several considerations should be made when developing
- Give priority to locations that are used by schoolchildren, the elderly,
those with disabilities, and locations that provide access to transit.
- Consider giving preference to requests from neighborhood groups, especially
those that meet other priorities, such as addressing a crash problem.
- Evaluate your construction options.
Consider having city crews do work requested by
citizens to provide fast customer service while
bidding out some of the staff-generated projects.
“Piggybacking” pedestrian improvements onto capital projects
is one of the best ways to make major improvements in a community. Sidewalks,
pedestrian ramps, landscaping, lighting, and other amenities can be included
in road projects, utility projects, and private construction in public
rights-of-way (e.g., cable television, high-speed fiber optics, etc.).
To accomplish this, there are several things that can be done:
- Contact all state and regional agencies, and local public
and private utilities that do work in public rights-of-way.
Secure their 5-year project plans as well as their long-range plans. Then,
work with them to make sure that the streets are restored in the way that
works for your city.
- Look internally at all capital projects. Make sure that every opportunity
to make improvements is taken advantage of at the time of construction.
- Consider combining small projects with larger capital projects as a way
of saving money. Generally, bid prices drop as quantities increase.
Increasingly, public improvements are realized through public/private
partnerships. These partnerships can take many forms. Examples include:
Community Development Corporations, neighborhood organizations, grants
from foundations, direct industry support, and involvement of individual
citizens. In fact, many public projects, whether they are traffic-calming
improvements, street trees, or the restoration of historic buildings, are
the result of individual people getting involved and deciding to make a
difference. This involvement doesn’t just happen, it needs to be
encouraged and supported by local governmental authorities.
Cities such as Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, and Cambridge, MA, have adopted
plans and procedures to ensure that pedestrian improvements become a routine
activity in new development projects, reconstruction work, and retrofits.
- City of Cambridge
- City of Portland
- City of Seattle
Pedestrian projects and programs can be funded by federal, state, local,
private, or any combination of sources. A summary of
federal pedestrian funding opportunities can be viewed
Communities that are most successful at securing funds
often have the following ingredients of success:
- Community consensus on what should be accomplished
increases the likelihood of successfully funding a project. A divided
or uninvolved community will find it more difficult to raise funds than
a community that gives broad support to pedestrian improvement programs.
Funding a project is hard work; usually, there are
no shortcuts. It usually takes a great amount of effort by many people
using multiple funding sources to complete a project successfully. Be
aggressive; apply for many different community grants. While professional
grant-writing specialists can help, they are no substitute for community
involvement and one-on-one contact (the “people part” of
- Successful projects typically have one or
more “can do” people in the right place at the right time,
who provide the energy and vision to see a project through. Many successful “can
do” politicians get their start as successful neighborhood activists.
Funds, once secured, should always be used to leverage
additional funds. For example, a grant from a local foundation could
be used as the required match for a Transportation Equity Act for the
21st Century (TEA-21) Enhancement grant.
- America Walks, a national coalition of pedestrian advocacy groups,
has developed a variety of resources that focus on results and implementation.