Sidewalk design should go beyond the minimum in both width and amenities. Pedestrians and businesses thrive where sidewalks are designed at an appropriate scale, with sufficient lighting, shade, and street-level activity.
These considerations are extremely important for streets with high traffic volumes, where pedestrians may avoid the area because they feel unsafe.
Sidewalks should be delineated by a vertical or horizontal separation from moving traffic to provide adequate buffer space and a sense of safety for pedestrians. Do not use shoulders or stopping lanes as a substitute for sidewalks.
Provide sufficient width, 1.8–2 m, so two people using wheelchairs can comfortably pass each other.
Clear paths must be free of fixed objects and major gaps or deformities that would make them inaccessible.
At driveways, clear paths should be continuous and step-free through the conflict zone.
If existing trees obstruct the clear paths for pedestrian movement, extend the sidewalk beyond the tree line to create additional space.
Do not place transit shelters directly within the path of travel. When the space is not sufficient, install a transit bulb or a boarding island.
Building Edges and Facades
Facades and storefronts should be designed to respond to the pedestrian’s eye level, with a focus on how each building meets the sidewalk. The lower 5 m of a building is the portion directly visible and most intensely experienced by the pedestrian.1
Provide or encourage lighting, signage, awnings, and other elements that are scaled to the pedestrian realm and add to the texture of the street.
Provide frequent building entrances to foster active spaces.
Provide an open or glazed frontage that engages pedestrians, encourages pausing, provides passive surveillance, and links public and private space.
Sidewalk cafés foster street life and have the potential to increase business along a corridor. Where provided, these must maintain accessible clear paths.
Urban arterials or high-volume downtown streets directly abutting the pedestrian realm should be buffered in some manner. Planting, street furniture, and, occasionally, vehicle parking or loading bays can provide a valuable buffer between the pedestrian and vehicle realm.