Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

Many people use the street to conduct daily business. Their front doors line the street edge; their goods and services extend out onto the sidewalks; they run stalls within the street or push carts throughout the city. These people play a key role in shaping vibrant and dynamic streets.

Often mobile in nature, but sometimes fixed, on-street commercial activities are part of every large city, responding to demand for goods and services that is highly specific and varies with time and location. Street vendors, kiosk owners, fruit stalls, food trucks, and the extension of commercial establishments provide convenient services to commuters, pedestrians, and nearby residents. Spaces for business activities should be incorporated into the design of the street.

Where demand is likely to exist—in locations such as central markets, tourist attractions, and transit stations—include dedicated spaces on expanded sidewalks or in parking lanes.

These uses can activate otherwise blank building edges and, when situated in a parking lane, provide a welcome buffer between pedestrians and adjacent moving traffic.

Commerce is part of every city, and streets should be designed to accommodate formal and informal on-street commercial activity.


Accommodating commercial activity should balance the various users in a given location and always support a safe and vibrant street environment. Considerations should include:

  • Siting and location with regard to local context.
  • Critical distances to maintain clear pedestrian paths and crossings.
  • Use of parking lanes or furniture zones along the sidewalk.
  • Scale and design of any fixed or mobile structures.
  • Permitting processes and local enforcement.
  • Times and seasons of use.
  • Clear communication of regulations.
  • Ongoing maintenance including regular cleaning and waste management.
  • Health and safety standards for activities involving food and beverages.
  • Access to utilities such as power and water


Commercial uses provide vitality and activity within the street, support local economies, and make streets more livable and attractive to for all users. Many types of commercial activities provide amenities and add character to the street, from sidewalk cafés, to market stalls, food trucks, and push carts.

Milan, Italy. Sidewalk cafés animate a pedestrian-oriented street in the historic part of the city.

Sidewalk Cafés

Sidewalk cafés play an important role in animating streets and creating neighborhood destinations. While narrow seating areas can be provided in as little as 1 m widths, larger seating areas require deeper strips of 2–4 m.

The area reserved should not interfere with the pedestrian clear path, allowing a minimum width of 2.4 –3 m according to pedestrian volumes. Movable chairs and small tables provide more flexibility and can be easily removed to ensure wheelchair accessibility. Use furniture and planters to clearly demarcate the strip and make it more detectable for visually impaired users. Design sidewalk cafés to be universally accessible.

Storefront Spillovers and Stalls

Ground floor businesses often want to extend their storefronts by installing display areas adjacent to their facades, attracting visitors or increasing attention. These areas should only exceed the length of the storefront, unless covering blank walls or fences, and be at most 1.5–2 m wide. Maintain the sidewalks clear path and universal accessibility to the business, and develop local guidance to clarify whether displays must be disassembled daily or seasonally.

Street Vendors and Kiosks

Push carts, market stalls, and kiosks come in many shapes and sizes and can be occasional or regular features of a particular streetscape. These important street users can fit in single file spaces as narrow as 1 m wide or fill 3-m wide stretches of a street in a busy commercial or market-like context.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.

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