Prioritize Pedestrians in Street User Hierarchy

A street user hierarchy provides the framework for transportation policies, directing which mode should be considered first from a design perspective. A street hierarchy that prioritizes pedestrians would rank street users in the following order: pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, freight transporters, taxi drivers, and private-vehicle drivers. This policy framework also charges each street user to show increased prudence toward more vulnerable street users. The street user-hierarchy framework can also specify and standardize expected travel behavior by clearly identified zones, such as 45 mph, 30 mph, and 20 mph zones.


The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals specifies near-term actions to implement this policy, including:

  • Strengthening and publicizing the U.S. Department of Transportation policy statement Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel: A Recommended Approach
  • Surveying best-practice policies that encourage safety and increased walking and bicycling, including U.S. Complete Streets policies, the German national bicycling plan, the United Kingdom Cycling City program, and Swiss legislation on human-powered mobility
  • Developing a national strategy to improve education for transportation professionals on walking and bicycling design and planning
  • Promotes safe mobility for street users regardless of age, physical ability, or mode
  • Helps support livability, sustainability, public health; and economic, climate-change, social-equity, and congestion-management goals when integrated with public transit
  • Existing codes of funding structures that may conflict with a pedestrian-oriented street user hierarchy
  • Existing legal statutes that may contradict a pedestrian-oriented street user hierarchy
Where to Use It

Policy framework at national, state, and local departments of transportation

Professional Consensus

A 2009 study of five European countries, which was sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and National Cooperative Highway Research Program, assessed approaches to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety and mobility. The resulting report recommended national, state, and local transportation policies that give nonmotorized modes the highest priority in the road user hierarchy.




New York

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