Planners and Architects

Build a Comprehensive Sidewalk Network

Sidewalks are roadways for walkers; they need to be comprehensive, integrated, and connected. Many communities and cities have discontinuous sidewalk systems that need connecting or upgrading to get people where they need to go. To most efficiently use their resources, jurisdictions should survey and analyze existing sidewalks to prioritize sidewalk improvements.

  • Survey existing conditions
  • Track and store existing sidewalk conditions, possibly using a geographic information system (GIS)
  • Perform in-field assessments of existing conditions and existing ADA/PROWAG compliance
  • Address need for safe and accessible street crossings between sidewalks
  • Analyze sidewalk conditions in relation to census and land use data
  • Determine appropriate sidewalk widths based on existing volumes of people and adjacent land uses. Zupan and Pushkarev posit sidewalk minimums in Urban Space for Pedestrians
  • Prioritization criteria can include:
    • Potential demand (proximity to pedestrian attractors and corridor function)
    • Potential pedestrian risk (presence of physical buffers between moving traffic and pedestrians, traffic volumes, traffic speeds)
    • Existing sidewalk need (level of maintenance and ADA compliance)
    • Existing population need (health and socioeconomic levels of adjacent population)
  • Solicit public input and discussion when creating a matrix to prioritize projects
  • Consider alternative, cheaper sidewalk and street designs to achieve infrastructure- and stormwater-management goals
  • Create a separate program for community requested safety and sidewalk improvements
  • Install ADA and PROWAG-compliant infrastructure
  • Encourages walking by creating a safe, direct means of getting around on foot
  • Connects people and neighborhoods to businesses, schools, and job opportunities by building an integrated and comprehensive sidewalk network
  • Encourages social interaction
  • Reduces pedestrian conflicts with vehicles
  • Provides consistent accessibility for everyone, especially children, seniors, and people with mobility limitations
  • Construction costs
  • May require reclaiming right-of-way from existing front yards and lawns
  • Funding for continual maintenance
  • May require narrowing of the roadway
Where to Use It
  • Urban and suburban residential, commercial, and arterial streets
  • Access points and paths to and from transit, schools, parks, and other services
Professional Consensus
  • AASHTO maintains that “Providing people safe places to walk is an essential responsibility of all government entities involved in constructing or regulating the construction of the public right-of-way”
  • The policy of the U.S. DOT is that bicycling and walking facilities should be incorporated into all transportation projects unless “exceptional circumstances” exist

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.