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design and engineeringthe walking environment

the walking environment

roadway design

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Sidewalks or Walkways

Sidewalks and walkways separate pedestrians from the roadway and provide places for children to walk, run, skate, ride bikes, and play. Sidewalks are associated with significant reductions in pedestrian collisions with motor vehicles. Such facilities also improve mobility for pedestrians and should be provided 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. In more rural areas in particular, a “side path” made of one of these materials may be suitable. A minimum width of 5 feet for a sidewalk or walkway allows two people to pass comfortably or to walk side by side. Wider sidewalks should be installed along schools, transit stops, in downtown areas or anywhere high concentrations of pedestrians exist.

A buffer zone of 4 to 6 feet 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 additional buffer zone. In more suburban or rural areas, a grass strip, with or without trees, is generally most suitable. Careful planning of sidewalks and walkways is important for a neighborhood or area to provide adequate safety and mobility. Sidewalks should be continuous along both sides of a street and sidewalks should be fully accessible to pedestrians in wheelchairs. ITE guidelines recommend a minimum sidewalk width of 5 feet. Recommended guidelines and priorities for walkways are given in Appendix B.

This sidewalk and buffer zone provide a safe place for pedestrians to walk outside paths of vehicles in the street.

The material provided on this page is from the FHWA publication "Pedestrian Facilities User Guide." This guide is currently under review by practicioners and others in the field. Subsequently, the material provided on this page is subject to change in the future.

sidewalks or walkways

street furniture

curb ramps

marked crosswalks and enhancements

transit stop treatments

roadway lighting improvements

pedestrian overpasses / underpasses


• Creating the appropriate facility for the walking area of the public right-of-way.

• Improving pedestrian safety dramatically.


• 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 places that do not have a continuous system, transit, schools, parks and public buildings should be the highest priority.

• 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.

Estimated Cost:

The cost for concrete curb and sidewalk is approximately $15/linear foot for curbing and $11/square foot for walkways. Asphalt curbs and walkways are less costly but require more maintenance.

© Copyright 2000  Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center