VIA nacto

Sidewalks play a vital role in city life. As conduits for pedestrian movement and access, they enhance connectivity and promote walking. As public spaces, sidewalks serve as the front steps to the city, activating streets socially and economically. Safe, accessible, and well-maintained sidewalks are a fundamental and necessary investment for cities, and have been found to enhance general public health and maximize social capital.

Just as roadway expansions and improvements have historically enhanced travel for motorists, superior sidewalk design can encourage walking by making it more attractive.

1(first from left) FRONTAGE ZONE

The frontage zone describes the section of the sidewalk that functions as an extension of the building, whether through entryways and doors or sidewalk cafes and sandwich boards. The frontage zone consists of both the structure and the facade of the building fronting the street, as well as the space immediately adjacent to the building.

2(second from left) PEDESTRIAN THROUGH ZONE

The pedestrian through zone is the primary, accessible pathway that runs parallel to the street. The through zone ensures that pedestrians have a safe and adequate place to walk and should be 5–7 feet wide in residential settings and 8–12 feet wide in downtown or commercial areas.

3(second from right) STREET FURNITURE/CURB ZONE

The street furniture zone is defined as the section of the sidewalk between the curb and the through zone in which street furniture and amenities, such as lighting, benches, newspaper kiosks, utility poles, tree pits, and bicycle parking are provided. The street furniture zone may also consist of green infrastructure elements, such as rain gardens or flow-through planters.

4(first from right) ENHANCEMENT/BUFFER ZONE

The enhancement/buffer zone is the space immediately next to the sidewalk that may consist of a variety of different elements. These includecurb extensions,parklets, stormwater management features, parking, bike racks, bike share stations, and curbside bike lanes or cycle tracks.


The sidewalk is the area where people interface with one another and with businesses most directly in an urban environment. Designs that create a high­quality experience at street level will enhance the economic strength of commercial districts and the quality of life of neighborhoods.


Sidewalks are central to pedestrian life. Cities can enhance the public realm by creating venues where people can observe street life and activity, especially in retail and commercial areas.


From the 1960s through 1980s, many downtown sidewalks were widened as part of new downtown office tower developments. Wide downtown sidewalks benefit from public art, music, human-scale design features, and vendors to avoid feeling empty or oversized.


Narrow neighborhood sidewalks should be redesigned to provide a wider pedestrian through zone and street furniture zone whenever practicable.


Ribbon sidewalks are common in most residential areas. Design the pedestrian through zone to be roughly equal to the planted area, using pervious strips where applicable to help manage stormwater.

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