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How Wide Are Sidewalks? (It’s More Complicated Than You Think)

How Wide Are Sidewalks? (It’s More Complicated Than You Think)

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How wide are sidewalks? This question is more loaded than you realize!

Sidewalks are like the veins of a city.

They give life to the economy by connecting us to buildings and facilities. They provide us with safety and help us keep healthy.

It might seem simple at first glance, but plenty of thought goes into deciding how wide sidewalks should be!

How Wide Should the Sidewalk to the Front Door Be?

Sidewalks have four zones, each with a specific purpose.

The distance from the front door of your house to the pedestrian walking area is the frontage zone. It should be at least one foot wide for residential areas.

As for commercial areas, the frontage zone should be two to three feet wide. This gives people enough space to window shop.

It allows cafés to put signages and tables up for you. Planter boxes, stairs, and awnings all make use of the frontage zone!

How Wide Should a Sidewalk Be?

The next zone after the frontage zone is the pedestrian zone. This is what we recognize as the sidewalk.

It should be at least 4 feet wide, with 5-foot sections at 200 feet intervals! This width lets two people walk side-by-side comfortably.

There are some more requirements for this area. Namely, it should be non-slip, and either made from concrete or bricks for sturdiness.

The sidewalk should be at a 2° angle so rainwater will run toward the curb.

How Wide Should a Sidewalk Be for a Wheelchair?

For wheelchair access, the pedestrian zone of a sidewalk needs to be five feet wide. Its purpose is to give two people in wheelchairs enough space to pass each other.

The surface area shouldn’t be heavily textured, since it could make the sidewalk difficult for wheelchair users.

Sidewalks should be regularly maintained as well. It’s because a bump or crack could make it impossible for people in wheelchairs to pass through!

What Is the Size of a Sidewalk Square?

Have you ever noticed that sidewalks look like they’re a bunch of connected squares? These are there for a reason!

A sidewalk square has a standard size of 5 x 5 feet. They’re divided this way because sidewalks contract and expand depending on temperature and soil movement.

These lines are what we call contraction joints. It’s a way for us to control the natural cracking of concrete sidewalks.

In the absence of tactile paving, some visually impaired people can even use sidewalk squares to measure distance!

How Do Sidewalks Keep You Safe?

We now move to the third part of the sidewalk, which is the furnishing zone. This part is a buffer between the pedestrian zone and the curb.

In normal circumstances, the furnishing zone is two feet wide. However, for major streets, it has to be six feet wide or more.

The furnishing zone, especially if it has trees, acts to shield you from road activities. It enhances your walking experience, too.

Some cities may place lampposts, bins, transit stops, bicycle racks, and even shops on this part of the sidewalk. Additionally, this is where bumps on the sidewalk get installed to stop visually impaired people from walking to the street.

Why Are Sidewalks Elevated?

The curb zone is the last part of the sidewalk. This zone is the six-inch wide portion that’s connected to the street.

It may feel like a hassle at times, but the curb plays a vital role as a barrier to traffic!

Its height discourages cars from coming up to the sidewalk. As a bonus, the elevation even prevents flood water from running into the pedestrian zone.

How Thick Does a Sidewalk Need to Be?

Sidewalks need to be at least six inches in height. It should, however, slope in certain sections at pedestrian crossings as well.

This two-foot wide slope is the curb drop. Its purpose is so that people in wheelchairs can access the sidewalk.

Final Thoughts

How wide sidewalks are affects our safety.

It serves as our barrier from motorists. It also has a hand in our experience and enjoyment when we’re walking around the city.

We don’t think about them much, but there’s more to sidewalks than we realize!

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