Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


Pedestrians often walk along the roadway in areas where sidewalks or walkways are unavailable

Sidewalks provide people with space to travel within the public right-of-way that is separated from roadway vehicles.




Sidewalks, Walkways and Paved Shoulders

Sidewalks and walkways are “pedestrian lanes” that provide people with space to travel within the public right-of-way that is separated from roadway vehicles. They provide places for children to walk, run, skate, ride bikes, and play. Sidewalks are associated with significant reductions in pedestrian collisions with motor vehicles.1 Such facilities also improve mobility for pedestrians and provide access for all types of pedestrian travel: to and from home, work, parks, schools, shopping areas, and transit stops. Walkways should be part of every new and renovated road facility and every effort should be made to retrofit streets that currently do not have sidewalks.

While sidewalks are typically made of concrete, less expensive walkways may be constructed of asphalt, crushed stone, or other materials if they are properly maintained and accessible (firm, stable, and slip-resistant). In more rural areas, in particular, a “side path” made of one of these materials may be suitable. In areas where a separated walkway is not feasible, a wide paved shoulder on a roadway can provide a place for pedestrians to safely walk.2

Both the FHWA and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) recommend a minimum width of 5 feet for a sidewalk or walkway, which allows two people to pass comfortably or to walk side-by-side. The preferred width for paved shoulders is at least 6 feet.3 Wider sidewalks should be installed near schools, at transit stops, in downtown areas, or anywhere high concentrations of pedestrians exist. Sidewalks should be continuous along both sides of a street and sidewalks should be fully accessible to all pedestrians, including those in wheelchairs.4,5

A buffer zone of 4 to 6 feet is desirable to separate pedestrians from the street. The buffer zone will vary according to the street type. In downtown or commercial districts, a street furniture zone is usually appropriate. Parked cars or bicycle lanes can provide an acceptable buffer zone. In more suburban or rural areas, a landscape strip is generally most suitable. Careful planning of sidewalks and walkways is important in a neighborhood or area in order to provide adequate safety and mobility. For example, there should be a flat sidewalk provided in areas where driveways slope to the roadway.

Recommended guidelines and priorities for sidewalks and walkways are given in Appendix C.


Pedestrians often walk along the roadway in areas where sidewalks or walkways are unavailable. Because there is no buffer between the pedestrian and the vehicular traffic, walking along the roadway can put a pedestrian at risk. It can also be difficult, if not impossible, for pedestrians with visual or mobility restrictions, as the road surface and gravel shoulders are generally not designed for pedestrian use. Sidewalks create the appropriate facility for the walking area of the public right-of-way and dramatically improve pedestrian safety.


• While continuous walkways are the goal, retrofitting areas without them will usually occur in phases. Even small sidewalk projects can provide the groundwork for later development of a continuous system.
• Designers should consult the Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-Of-Way promulgated by the U.S. Access Board.
• In retrofitting streets that do not have a continuous or accessible system, locations near transit stops, schools, parks, public buildings, and other areas with high concentrations of pedestrians should be the highest priority.
• Street furniture placement should not restrict pedestrian flow.

Estimated Cost

Min. Low
Max. High
Cost Unit
# of Sources (Observations)
Asphalt Paved Shoulder
Square Foot
Asphalt Sidewalk
Linear Foot
Brick Sidewalk
Linear Foot
Concrete Paved Shoulder
Square Foot
Concrete Sidewalk
Linear Foot
Concrete Sidewalk - Patterned
Linear Foot
Concrete Sidewalk - Stamped
Linear Foot
Concrete Sidewalk + Curb
Linear Foot
Sidewalk (Unspecified)
Linear Foot
Sidewalk Pavers
Linear Foot
Linear Foot
Multi-Use Trail - Paved
Class I Shared Use Trail
Multi-Use Trail - Unpaved

Costs will vary depending on the length of sidewalk, the base material, and whether curb ramps are needed. Asphalt curbs and walkways are less costly, but require more maintenance, and are more difficult to walk and roll on for pedestrians with mobility restrictions.The approximate cost to add paved shoulders can range from $100,000 to $350,000 per mile for 5-6 feet wide shoulder. This cost can vary widely depending on the length of shoulder, site conditions, and other factors.

In some cases, sidewalk costs are represented as a combination of both sidewalks and curbs, though it is important to note that the costs presented in the table above represent the cost of the sidewalk “in the ground” and may or may not include curb and gutter. All sidewalk costs are presented either by linear foot or by square foot with all unit conversion assuming that sidewalks are five feet in width. Costs will vary substantially for multi-use paths, based on the materials used, right-of-way costs, and other factors.

Safety Effects

A summary of studies that have looked at the safety effects of sidewalks, walkways and paved shoulders can be found here.

Case Studies

Berkeley, CA
Clemson, SC
Shoreline, Washington
Washington, District of Columbia
Grand Junction, CO
Fort Plain, NY
Prescott, AZ
University Place, WA
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Snohomish County, Washington
Bellevue, WA
Asheville, NC
Brooklyn, New York
Montgomery County, Maryland
Englewood, Ohio
Albemarle, Virginia
Seattle, Washington