Sidewalks and walkways are “pedestrian lanes” that provide
people with space to travel within the public right-of-way that is separated
from roadway vehicles. They also provide places for children to walk,
run, skate, ride bikes, and play. Sidewalks are associated with significant
reductions in pedestrian collisions with motor vehicles.1 Such
facilities also improve mobility for pedestrians and provide access for
all types of pedestrian travel: to and from home, work, parks, schools,
shopping areas, transit stops, etc. Walkways should be part of every
new and renovated facility and every effort should be made to retrofit
streets that currently do not have sidewalks.
While sidewalks are typically made of concrete, less expensive walkways
may be constructed of asphalt, crushed stone, or other materials if they
are properly maintained and accessible (firm, stable, and slip-resistant).
In more rural areas, in particular, a “side path” made of one
of these materials may be suitable. Both FHWA and the Institute of Transportation
Engineers (ITE) recommend a minimum width of 1.5 m (5 ft) for a sidewalk
or walkway, which allows two people to pass comfortably or to walk
side-by-side. Wider sidewalks should be installed near schools, at transit
stops, in downtown areas, or anywhere high concentrations of pedestrians
exist. Sidewalks should be continuous along both sides of a street and
sidewalks should be fully accessible to all pedestrians, including
those in wheelchairs.2, 3
A buffer zone of 1.2 to 1.8 m (4 to 6 ft) is desirable and should be provided
to separate pedestrians from the street. The buffer zone will vary according
to the street type. In downtown or commercial districts, a street furniture
zone is usually appropriate. Parked cars and/or bicycle lanes can provide
an acceptable buffer zone. In more suburban or rural areas, a landscape
strip is generally most suitable. Careful planning of sidewalks
and walkways is important in a neighborhood or area in order to
provide adequate safety and mobility. For example, there should be
a flat sidewalk provided in areas where driveways slope to the roadway.
Recommended guidelines and priorities for sidewalks and walkways are given
in More Info.