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Is Designing Sidewalks Necessary?
Yes! A well-designed sidewalk can be one of the best investments for your community. Sidewalk design can increase property values, reduce crime, increase pedestrian safety, and provide a better quality of life for all residents.
The first requirements for creating a great street sidewalk is to understand the basics of sidewalks and curb ramps. This will help you identify what needs to be done to improve them. For example, if your sidewalk has cracks and potholes, it might be time to consider replacing it with high-grade improvements. If your street sidewalk is too narrow, you may want to widen it to accommodate other things such as street furniture, traffic control devices, and a sidewalk flag. But keep in mind that not every sidewalk requires a complete overhaul. Sometimes just a few small sidewalk enhancements on the surface can make a big difference on the roadway.
Why Are Sidewalks so Important?
Sidewalks are important because they connect people with their homes, schools, businesses, and other public space. They also provide safe routes for pedestrian travel and bicyclists. Apart from sidewalk cafes, the rise of sidewalk ramps is becoming very useful for the pedestrian realm. In fact, many studies have shown that when the pedestrian pathway is designed properly, it encourages walking, biking, and transit use.
But pedestrian facilities don’t just benefit persons who walk or bike; they also enhance property grade and values. When people see clean, attractive sidewalk intersections, they tend to think more highly of the grade and value of their home, and this increases its resale price in the urban arterial.
Sidewalks also offer benefits to our communities, as well as street trees. They prevent crime by making it easier for law enforcement officers to patrol neighborhoods. They also reduce traffic accidents by providing a safer roadway for pedestrians and cyclists. And finally, a sidewalk path creates a sense of community with the public realm interacting with one another in traffic volumes. People feel connected to others when they share common spaces and walkway surface like sidewalks.
Street Spaces that are Safe for Pedestrians
When designing new streets, engineers must take into account how people move through the textured surfaces. The most basic way to do this is to ensure that there are no obstacles between the mountable curb, sidewalk intersections, or alternate routes. These include considering things like sidewalk defects, path of travel, street type, adjacent roadway, and roadside objects.
If these barriers exist, people need to cross over them on foot or by bicycle and sidewalks won't be acceptable passing spaces. However, if there are too many obstacles, people won’t be able to get from point A to point B safely. Instead, this will have a direct impact on the increased use of a vehicle and would not serve as a pedestrian-friendly streetscape.
This is why it’s important to plan out street designs and spaces carefully. Engineers should avoid placing obstructions at intersections and along major thoroughfares with high pedestrian volumes. Also, they should try to minimize the number of turns and sharp corners for a proper sidewalk circulation path and an accessible sidewalk route.
The Types of Sidewalk
There are two types of sidewalks:
• Curb-to-curb (or “sidewalk-in-the-street”) – This type of sidewalk runs alongside the road. It typically extends from the curb line to the edge of the adjacent roadway or property.
• Sidewalk-on-grade (or “sidewalk”) – This kind of sidewalk is built directly onto the ground. It usually starts near the centerline of the adjacent roadway and continues past the property line onto the pedestrian paths.
Roadside Sidewalks are usually found near residential areas. Their primary purpose is to protect pedestrians from errant vehicles and high vehicle speeds. Roadside sidewalks are typically made of concrete or brick. They often feature decorative elements such as benches, stationary objects, and lighting fixtures. Parallel Sidewalks are used primarily in commercial districts, near building entrances. They are generally wider than roadside sidewalks and are made of asphalt or cement. Parallel sidewalks are sometimes called “sidewalk boulevards” with street trees.
How to Improve Sidewalks
There are several ways to improve sidewalks:
• Replace cracked and broken pavement with high-grade material that's also accessible for people with mobility impairments.
• Add new materials to existing sidewalks, like utility poles, signalized intersections, pedestrian pushbutton, street lamps, and freestanding objects.
• Install curb ramps when necessary, particularly a mountable curb and a safe surface type.
• Maintain the appearance of sidewalks for aesthetic reasons adhering to the sidewalk design criteria.
• Provide sufficient lighting for additional guidance to pedestrians, specifically on building entrances and house steps.
• Make sure that sidewalks are accessible to all users with ample space and cleared of shrubs on properties.
In order to make sidewalks accessible to everyone, including a disabled person, engineers must design them so that they can be used by anyone. This means ensuring that they meet ADA requirements. For example, they must be wide enough for wheelchairs and strollers. They must also have handrails, which provide support for people using crutches or other mobility devices. Handrails also help prevent falls. Finally, they must be free of debris and hazards.
In addition to meeting accessibility standards, engineers must consider safety issues when planning new sidewalks. For instance, they must ensure that they don’t pose any risks to people who use them. To accomplish this, they should be placed away from busy intersections and high-traffic areas.
Engineers should always keep in mind that sidewalks are just one part of a complete street design. Other parts include traffic signals, signs, bike lanes, and pedestrian crossings. Together, these components create safe environments for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Engineers should strive to create streets that are both attractive and functional. In fact, they should work together with landscape architects and urban planners to develop plans that promote walkability while discouraging driving.
What are Sidewalks Made Of
Sidewalks come in different materials depending on location. Here are some examples:
• Concrete – This material is durable and easy to maintain despite high volumes of pedestrian traffic. It’s often used for sidewalks around schools and commercial areas.
• Asphalt – This is the cheapest option for a walkway surface. It’s commonly used for residential sidewalks.
• Brick – This material is very expensive to install but provides a beautiful appearance. With textured surfaces, it’s mostly used for sidewalks around parks and museums.
Concrete Sidewalk Repairs and Maintenance
It’s not uncommon for concrete sidewalks to crack and break apart. If you notice any cracks or defective curbs on your sidewalk, you should call experts so that they can resolve the issue before the water gets inside. Sometimes, errant vehicles and vehicle speeds have a direct impact on highways and streets. These are presented as issues for pedestrians who are concerned about their safety in a public space. Small cracks can be fixed using epoxy resin, while larger ones require a grout sealant.
We recommend that homeowners keep an eye out for signs of deterioration to quickly execute sidewalk reconstruction projects and provide continuous access for people who prefer utilizing sidewalks as a path of travel. Cracks may seem minor, but they could eventually lead to bigger problems. For example, water seeping under the sidewalk can cause damage to the foundation of your home.
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s best to contact a professional who has experience dealing with these issues before they become too serious. First, they trap water using underground utilities to maintain a safe surface for the pedestrian realm.
How Do You Know if Your Sidewalk Needs Repair?
Here are some common indications that your sidewalk needs repairs:
• Water stains – This indicates that water has gotten underneath the surface of the sidewalk. It also means that the soil beneath the sidewalk isn’t properly draining.
• Sagging – If your sidewalk sags or bends, this could be caused by poor drainage.
• Grinding noise – A grinding sound might indicate loose stones or pebbles. Pedestrian users should watch out for this since they might hurt themselves while passing by.
• Puddles – These puddles could mean that there is a problem with the sewer system.
• Crackling sounds – When walking over a cracked sidewalk, you might hear cracking noises coming from the pavement.
• Staining – Some staining could be due to tree roots growing into the sidewalk.
• Slippery spots – These slippery patches could be caused by ice buildup. Sloped surfaces are more prone to such spots depending on the surface type.
• Spots where the cement looks like it has been chipped off – Chipping occurs when the cement becomes exposed to harsh weather conditions.
• Graffiti – Graffiti is another sign that sidewalks need repair but can still be used as acceptable passing spaces.
• Broken bricks – Broken bricks could be evidence of a broken sewer line.
• Missing bricks – If a brick wall starts crumbling, it could mean that the sewer line is leaking.
• Crumbling mortar – Crumbling mortar could indicate that the sewer line is damaged.
• Fissures – Fissures in the sidewalk could be caused by trees pushing up against the curb.
• Loose gravel – Loose gravel could be a sign that the curb was improperly installed.
• Crevices – Crevices on the sidewalk could indicate that the curb wasn’t properly installed.
• Swelling – Swelling in the sidewalk could mean that the curb wasn‘t properly installed.
• Expansion joints – Expansion joints are grooves that allow the sidewalk to expand without breaking.
• Curbs – ADA-compliant curb ramps should be level and straight to accommodate any pedestrian traffic.
• Drainage holes – Drainage holes should be evenly spaced along the edge of the sidewalk to level surfaces.
• Crack lines – Crack lines are cracks that run parallel to each other. They usually occur near curbs or a curb extension, that's why it's important to have a proper curb ramp design.
• Steps – Steps should be even and level to make it safe for pedestrian users.
• Cracked concrete – Cracked concrete could be a sign that there is a crack in the foundation of family properties near the pedestrian pathway.
It's very important to have livable streets and an accessible sidewalk route that doesn't just serve private property owners, but also people with visual impairment or a disabled person by being compliant with the accessibility requirements. A sidewalk should also have ample space to give way to roadside objects, like street lamps, street furniture, temporary objects, and water meters.
What are the Minimum Sidewalk Widths in the United States?
In the U.S., the minimum width requirements for sidewalks vary based on the city. Obviously, a wider sidewalk is better for pedestrian movement and roadway utilities. Wide sidewalks help the pedestrian network avoid vehicular traffic, particularly in city streets. In general, however, the standards are as follows:
• New York City – 6 feet wide
• Chicago – 4 feet wide
• Los Angeles – 3 feet wide
• Philadelphia – 2 feet wide
• San Francisco – 1.5 feet wide
• Washington D.C. – 1.25 feet wide