Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

Use the following collection of elements as a visual checklist to ensure a comprehensive approach to prioritizing pedestrians and providing universal accessibility.


Sidewalks should be continuous and provide a clear path consistent with pedestrian volumes, but always wide enough to allow two people using wheelchairs to pass one another. Allocate space for building entrances and commercial activity outside the clear path. Street furniture, trees, and utilities should serve as a buffer between the clear path and moving traffic.

Pedestrian Crossings

Safe and frequent pedestrian crossings support a walkable urban environment. Pedestrian crossings should be located at all intersections in addition to mid-block points where pedestrian traffic is anticipated or desire lines are observed. Support marked crossings with signals and stop controls, raised elements, refuge islands, and narrow corner radii. Slow vehicular traffic approaching pedestrian crossings.

Pedestrian Refuges

Pedestrian refuges reduce crossing distance and provide waiting areas for people who cannot cross the full width of the street in the pedestrian interval. Use pedestrian refuge islands whenever speeds and vehicle volumes make single-stage crossings dangerous for some users, and in most streets of three or more lanes of traffic.

Sidewalk Extensions

Sidewalk extensions are an extension of the sidewalk, usually at the point of the intersection, visually and physically narrowing the roadway and shortening crossing distances. They make pedestrians waiting to cross the street more visible to drivers, calm traffic speeds, and increase the available curb space for people waiting to cross. Large sidewalk extensions can accommodate street furniture, benches, vendors, transit stops, snow storage, planters, and trees.

Pedestrian Ramps

Install pedestrian ramps at every pedestrian crossing and change of level. They should be built of non-slip materials and have a maximum slope of 1:10 (10%), ideally 1:12 (8%). These ramps are critical for people pushing strollers or carts, or using wheelchairs. They should be aligned perpendicularly to the pedestrian crossing.

Guidance for the Visually Impaired

Employ strategies such as accessible pedestrian signals at intersections, tactile paving strips on sidewalks, station edges, and pedestrian ramps to facilitate accessibility for people with vision impairment. These elements provide guidance to assist blind people and the visually impaired in navigating the city.

Signage and Wayfinding

Provide consistent pedestrian signage in a clear visual language that can be universally understood. Provide information to allow users to switch between mobility modes and navigate local street networks. Illustrate walking and cycling times and distances in wayfinding signs and maps.

Pedestrian Countdown Signals

Install pedestrian signals at intersections to allow pedestrians to cross the street safely. Display crossing time duration with a numerical timer during the clearance interval. The clearance time is generally based on a 1-m/s walking speeds applied to the total crossing distance. Since many pedestrians walk below this speed, provide frequent refuge or time the walk signal to allow for a 0.5-m/s speed.


Well-lit spaces are critical to pedestrian safety, creating lively, inviting spaces at night and preventing crime. Place pedestrian-scaled lighting along all streets, ensuring appropriate illumination levels and spacing to avoid dark spots between light sources. Brightness levels should be greater along commercial streets and softer in residential areas. Poles and fixtures should never obstruct walking paths. See: Lighting Design Guidance.


Provide frequent opportunities for people to pause and rest. Seating should have comfortable backs, offering a mix of shaded and unshaded seats suited to the local climate. Placement should allow legroom that does not block the clear path. In larger pedestrian areas, provide movable chairs and a variety of seating arrangements to invite conversation and social activity.

Water Fountains

Provide drinking fountains with fresh, potable water to offer sustainable alternatives to bottled water and ensure an essential water source in many communities. Use creative designs to encourage use, and ensure that fountains are maintained to clean and safe standards. Provide access for children and people in wheelchairs with varied heights.

Weather Protection

Incorporate awnings and canopies into building facades where possible to add shelter and character to the street, and offer protection from the weather during snow, rain, or extreme heat. Install stand-alone shade structures in larger pedestrian-only areas if shade trees are not present or are immature.


Provide curbs to create a structural edge between the sidewalk and adjacent cycle or travel lanes. Curbs discourage vehicles from entering or blocking pedestrian areas, and many are integrated with a gutter to assist in channeling water. Curbs should not be more than be 15 cm high. They should incorporate ramps at pedestrian crossings to facilitate safe access.

Waste Receptacles

Provide conveniently available receptacles for waste to help maintain a clean and enjoyable pedestrian environment. Place waste receptacles near corners, vendors, crossings, and parklets, adjacent to clear paths. Receptacles should be sized in accordance with expected use and local collection and maintenance plans. Solar–powered compactors can increase collecting capacity in high volume areas.

Active Building Edges

Building frontage design plays a critical role in shaping the overall pedestrian experience. The design of the ground floor influences the character of the street and the level of pedestrian engagement. Frequent entrances, appropriate transparency levels, visual variation, and textures all contribute to shaping an enticing street environment.

Trees and Landscaping

Include landscaping where possible to create a pleasant walking environment, contribute to the character of a neighborhood and encourage active transportation choices. Landscaping improves microclimatic conditions, cleans the air, filters water, and increases the biodiversity of a city, offering physical and mental health benefits.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.


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