Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

Pedestrian networks must be safe, comfortable, and enjoyable. Compared to other users, pedestrians cover less ground in the same amount of time, and experience the street the most intensely.

Moving without the protection of an enclosed vehicle, pedestrians engage all senses and are the most vulnerable users.

Look at the finest grain of the city fabric and the various types of pathways that can work together to create a comprehensive and continuous network.Design pedestrian networks to be:

  • Connected and Permeable
  • Accessible and Comfortable
  • Safe
  • Relevant to Context

Connected and Permeable

To be useful, sidewalks and pedestrian crossings must offer a continuous clear path. Even short stretches of sidewalk that are unpaved, uneven, obstructed, or that end abruptly disincentivize walking and create serious barriers for wheelchair users.

Create pedestrian links in order to shorten walking routes when possible. Paths and streets that end in cul-de-sacs should be extended to connect to nearby streets. Encourage the creation of pedestrian links through large blocks to achieve a finer-grain urban fabric and improve connectivity.

Provide multiple routes to move between key destinations. If one path is closed for maintenance, others should still be available.

Key Destinations
Carefully design pedestrian experiences within walking distance of key destinations such as transit stations, parks, schools, commercial districts, and neighborhood main streets. People are more likely to walk from one destination to another if the experience is convenient, comfortable, and enjoyable. Areas around key destinations and transit stops should include spaces that allow groups of people to congregate without blocking the paths of others.

Accessible and Comfortable

All streets should be universally accessible, accommodate different walking speeds, and be legible for all users. Pay particular attention to the needs of children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Capacity and Comfort
Ensure that sidewalk networks, hierarchy, and width relate to their context. Sidewalks should not require people to walk in single file, but allow pairs and groups to comfortably walk past each other. Downtown areas need wide sidewalks and clear paths for higher pedestrian volumes at peak periods. Neighborhood streets should allow space for outdoor uses and commercial activities, while residential streets with narrower clear paths should include additional landscaping.


Pedestrian Spaces
Pedestrian spaces must be safe for all users at different times of the day. They should be well-lit, provide accessible slopes and gradients, be free of obstructions, and offer eyes on the street for natural surveillance and crime prevention.

Intersection are critical nodes in a network in which pedestrians are exposed to the highest risk of fatality and injury. Provide visible, clear, short, and direct crossings at intersections. Install curb extensions and refuge islands to shorten crossing distance and provide protected areas for pedestrians waiting to cross. Crossings should always be marked, and when possible raised, for increased safety.

Relevant to Context

Human Scale and Complexity
Design facades and edges of buildings or spaces that define the pedestrian network to be engaging and interesting. Support varied building heights, architectural details, signage, entrance spacing, transparency levels, and landscaping to break down the scale and rhythm of the block and make walking distances feel shorter. Include a variety of shading and lighting devices on building facades to provide a comfortable walk.

Character and Identity
Iconic streets invite the opportunity for unique street furniture, wayfinding, landscaping, paving, signage, and lighting. Historic areas, promenades, and well-known corridors can strengthen the character of a neighborhood through the design of the street.

Steep elevation changes can limit street network connectivity and complicate access to critical services and key destinations. Combine steps and ramps with rest areas and landscaping.

Green Corridors
Opportunities to incorporate trees and landscaping should be identified throughout the city, along with particular corridors for additional greening. Green corridors should be provided on streets surrounding parks, large boulevards, central urban areas, and local neighborhood streets. Select native species to best suit local climates. Green corridors can help reinforce the character and identity of a neighborhood. See: Green Infrastructure.

Pedestrian Networks: Fine-grain pedestrian networks with a variety of pedestrian-priority spaces support a walkable city. Continuous sidewalks that are free of obstructions, frequent at-grade crossings, and small blocks allow pedestrians to conveniently and safely reach their destinations. Interesting and permeable building edges designed with human scale in mind provide an engaging and enjoyable walking experience.

New Delhi, India. A narrow laneway provides a convenient shortcut between neighborhoods.
São Paulo, Brazil. Parklets on a neighborhood sidewalk provide a place to pause.
Paris, France. Wide sidewalks provide space for promenading and people watching.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.

Pedestrian Toolbox

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Pedestrian Toolbox