Guide to Best Practices



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Types of Pedestrians

Pedestrians have special characteristics that must be considered in planning. They are highly diverse, including joggers, healthy adults in a hurry, groups enjoying a leisurely stroll, people carrying packages, people stopped to tie a shoe or enjoy a view, parents with children, people with pets on a leash, the elderly, and people using mobility aids. Pedestrian traffic averages about 4 feet per second (4.5 kilometers per hour), with a range of 2.5 to 8.0 feet per second (2.8 to 9.0 kilometers per hour), or even more.36
Facilities should be designed to meet the needs of all users. Pedestrian space requirements range from less than 1 square metre to several square metres for people with a cart, a pet on a leash, or a group. Steps, steep inclines, and surface irregularities can present significant obstacles to children, seniors, people with disabilities, and people using strollers or handtrucks. The lack of a sidewalk or ramp may mean little to an able-bodied person, who can sidestep the inconvenience, but some pedestrians may need to use an alternative route just to descend a curb.
Pedestrians generally travel more slowly than any other mode. They may be difficult for drivers to see and are vulnerable to injury if hit by a vehicle, particularly when traffic speeds are moderate or high. Pedestrians are particularly sensitive to traffic congestion, detours, roadway conditions, street aesthetics, and perception of street crime.

  1. Pedestrian Facilities and Planning

Pedestrian facilities include paths, sidewalks, crosswalks, walkways, stairs, ramps, and building entranceways. High quality pedestrian facilities should be incorporated in all urban developments. There are three general ways to implement pedestrian facilities:


  • Require pedestrian facilities in new private construction. This can be done through design standards and zoning laws, and negotiated as part of project development approval.

  • Incorporate pedestrian facilities in scheduled municipal projects, such as roadway construction and reconstruction.

  • Projects funded by municipal governments, local improvement districts, or property owners.

Pedestrian planning involves more than just providing and maintaining sidewalks and paths. It also requires consideration of pedestrian needs in roadway design. The pedestrian environment can be enhanced with more human-scale streets with narrower roadway widths, lower traffic speeds, smaller corner radii, planter strips, crosswalks (particularly crosswalks with signals, curb bulges, textured surfaces, raised surfaces, and adequate lighting), street trees, and pedestrian amenities. Traffic calming strategies, described later in this report can also significantly improve the pedestrian environment.


Parking lots can be high-risk areas for pedestrians. Parking facility design guidelines are available that include strategies to reduce pedestrian risks.37 For example, parking lots should have walkways to channel pedestrians safely across traffic lanes, and defines ways to improve pedestrian visibility and security.
The pedestrian environment can also be enhanced with land use policies that result in more mixed use development (so residences, employment centers and commercial businesses are within walking distance of each other), narrow road widths, a more connected street network (minimal dead-ends and cul de sacs), and more human-scale development. Resources for this type of community design are described later in this report in the Livable Communities section.

Planning Tip

Pedestrian Underpasses

The following guidelines are recommended for pedestrian underpasses:

(1) Always provide a clear view from one end of the underpass to the other, and if at all possible avoid any curvature, either horizontal or vertical.

(2) Make the motor vehicles climb a few degrees on the overpass so that pedestrians and cyclists can pass underneath at grade. Downhill slopes into an underpass should be avoided to keep cyclists from attaining excessive speeds.

(3) Don’t build stairs down to underpasses; they discriminate against the nonmotorized users and deter use of the system.


(4) Provide bright, attractive and secure lighting throughout the underpass at all times.

  1. Pedestrian Standards and Improvements


The City of Portland’s Pedestrian Design Guide is an excellent resource for pedestrian planning. It provides detailed, practical instructions for designing and implementing pedestrian facility improvements and policies that support pedestrian travel. Another excellent source is the Pedestrian Facilities Guidebook developed by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Pedestrian facility design guidelines are being developed by various professional organizations (AASHTO, ITE, TRB).
A pedestrian plan usually includes:

  1. Design, construction and maintenance standards for sidewalks, crosswalks, paths, and sidewalk furniture.

  2. Priorities for pedestrian improvements, including new sidewalks, crosswalks, paths, traffic calming, new mid-block short cuts, and new connections for dead-end streets.

  3. Pedestrian improvement funding options.


Pedestrian Commercial Districts


Pedestrianized commercial districts (“Mainstreets”) can be important for urban revitalization, although they must be carefully implemented to be effective. 38 They can help create a lively and friendly environment that attracts residents and visitors. Some are closed to motor vehicle traffic altogether, or during some time periods, such as evenings or weekends, while others use traffic calming design strategies to control traffic speeds and volumes.39

Business and residents should be involved in planning and managing pedestrian commercial streets. Often, a downtown business organization or Transportation Management Association will oversee streetscape development, as well as parking management and promotion activities.


Pedestrian Commercial Street Guidelines


  • Pedestrian streets are only successful in areas that are attractive and lively. They require a critical mass of users. They should form a natural connection route for diverse attractions (tourist activities, shops, offices, etc.), and serve as both a destination and a thoroughfare.

  • Develop a pleasant environment, with greenery, shade and rain covers. Use brick, block pavement or textured cement instead of asphalt, if possible. Street-level building features and street furniture should be pedestrian scale and attractive. Avoid blank walls on buildings.

  • Develop a variety of pedestrian-oriented retail shops and services that attract a broad range of customers and clients. If possible there should also be offices and residential apartments, preferably located over shops.

  • Allow motor vehicles as required for access, with appropriate restrictions based on need, time and vehicle type. This may include unrestricted motor vehicle traffic during morning hours, transit and HOV vehicles, pickup and drop-off for residents and hotels, service and emergency vehicles, or other categories deemed appropriate.

  • Pedestrian streets should have good access to public transit and parking. They should be located in a pedestrian-friendly area. Mid-block walkways and buildings open to through public traffic should be developed and enhanced as much as possible.

  • Security, cleanliness and physical maintenance standards must be high.

  • Provide a range of artistic, cultural and recreational amenities (statues, fountains, playgrounds) and activities (concerts, fairs, markets). Highlight historical features.

  • Pedestrian streets should generally be small and short, typically just a few blocks in length.


  • Vehicle traffic on cross-streets should be slowed or restricted.

Planning Tip

Planning for Large Pedestrian Crowds

(Experience from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, by Ian Napier, Secretary, Pedestrian Council of Australia)


Up to half a million pedestrians were moved in, out or through the Homebush Bay site on the busier days of competition and from my observation and others reports it worked very well. The lessons from it were:

  • Avoid, where possible, two-way pedestrian routes. (The main flows were organised in huge one-way converging and diverging loops and where necessary temporary overpasses had been put in so that the conflicting flows could cross.)

  • Keep people moving where possible. This of course has its limits. People will start to resent being moved just for the sake of it especially if they know the territory and are aware that they are being sent the long way round. Generally there is the reassurance however that one is making progress.

  • Keep people informed at all times. The information is in a number of forms ­ the fixed signs using internationally recognisable symbols wherever possible, -large programmable message screens (more familiar as warning signs for roadworks on highways), - people with loud hailers on raised positions able to direct and inform the crowds, easily identified staff (in this case usually volunteers) able to monitor progress and answer questions at ground level. ­ fixed and clearly identified information booths.
  • Keep people amused/entertained- here we were blessed with an army (not THE army, although they were in the background if needed) of goodnatured, tolerant, and often very amusing, volunteers who have been hailed as the secret of Sydney. Street performers and musicians were located at critical points where queues were anticipated. There were even stories of railway staff breaking into song and announcing trains in rhyming couplets.


  • Provide escape routes and eddy spaces so that people don’t feel trapped in crowds

  • Provide shady and sheltered places that people can rest and relax between events.

  • Provide diversions for children of all ages.

  • Build in sufficient flexibility to cope with varying numbers and unexpected eventualities. For example, queuing races (barriers used to shape lines) can be short circuited when the crowds are smaller.

  • Raising (or lowering as the case may be) expectations in order to modify behaviour. By the time the Olympics arrived no one in their right mind expected that they could drive all the way to events. They expected queues and long walks and in the end seemed to accept that with good humour.




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