walkinginfo.org -> part of the pedestrian and bicycle information center

print page Print Page

Exit Print Page and Return to Sidewalks and Walkways

Sidewalks and Walkways:
Adapted from <i>Making Streets That Work</i>, Seattle, 1996

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.

Photo by Dan Burden
This sidewalk and buffer zone provides a safe place for pedestrians to walk outside of the paths of vehicles in the street.

• Create the appropriate facility for the walking area of the public right-of-way.
• Improve pedestrian safety dramatically.
top of page

• While continuous walkways are the goal, retrofitting areas without them will usually occur in phases. Lack of a seamless system is no excuse not to provide parts of the system.
• In retrofitting streets that do not have a continuous or accessible system, locations near transit stops, schools, parks, public buildings, and other areas with high concentrations of pedestrians should be the highest priority.
• Street furniture placement should not restrict pedestrian flow.
top of page

  Estimated Cost
The cost for concrete curbs and sidewalks is approximately $49/linear meter ($15/linear foot) for curbing and $118/square meter ($11/square foot) for walkways. Asphalt curbs and walkways are less costly, but require more maintenance, and are somewhat more difficult to walk and roll on for pedestrians with mobility impairments.
top of page