Frequently Asked Questions

There are no sidewalks where I live.  How do I change that?

The following provides some guidelines around specific areas that you could focus on:

• Sidewalks should be installed on both sides of all but the most rural streets.
• Check that sidewalks approaching and crossing bridges are wide enough to comfortably separate walkers from motorists.
• In those areas without curbs and gutters, asphalt walkways may be a better choice than a more permanent concrete sidewalk
• Ideally, sidewalks should be separated from the road by a minimum 4 to 6 foot planting strip or boulevard. This separates walkers from cars and provides a place to plant trees
• Sidewalks should be required in all new housing and commercial developments.
(Source: The National Center for Bicycling and Walking)
• The preferred sidewalk width in a downtown or other activity area is 12 feet (3.65 metres), at least half of which (6 feet/1.83 metres) should be clear of obstructions. This width allows two pedestrians to walk side by side, or to pass each other comfortably. It generally provides enough width for window- shopping, some street furniture (benches, lamps, etc.) and places for people to stop. More width is desirable to accommodate bus shelters, sidewalk cafes, and other outdoor retail. In a pinch, 8 feet (2.43 metres) is acceptable. Outside of the downtown area, sidewalks should be at least 5 feet (1.5 metres) wide.
• The condition of the sidewalk, i.e. state of repair, cracks, etc., is also very important.


Traffic is too fast.  How can I slow it down?

Many communities have traffic that is too fast for pedestrians to feel comfortable. Many communities are experimenting with speed bumps, traffic circles, wide sidewalks at intersections and other self-enforcing measures that slow traffic down and make walking more inviting and safe. Some things to consider are:

• Speed bumps are popular and effective.
• Traffic circles reduce the amount of through traffic, lower the speed of remaining cars and help improve the look of the neighbourhood
• Even something as simple as making street corners sharper can effectively slow traffic down
• Traffics speeds can be controlled on residential and main roads alike so motorists can still get where they want to go – but not at the expense of the community or people who want to be able to set foot outside their own front doors
• Sidewalk extensions, dividers and raised medians can break the straight lines that encourage drivers to go too fast. They also provide greater protection for pedestrians
• Encourage the town/county/ municipality to allow buildings to be built closer to the street
• Reducing the number of traffic lanes
• Include stop signs, street lights, cross walks, etc. into the design of communities


I can’t cross the road.  How do I change that?

There are three problems with the way streets are designed that spell trouble for people on foot.


Wide streets increase the amount of time you could be hit while crossing the street.


Intersections with wide corners or free-flowing right-turn lanes allow motorists to make turns at relatively high speeds.


Parked cars may make it difficult for walkers to see oncoming
cars and for motorists to see people waiting to cross.

Solutions to these problems include:

• Making sidewalks wider at intersections shortens crossing distances.
• Build “curb bulbs” at intersections by extending sidewalk and curb out into the street. Curb bulbs and smaller curb radii can shorten the crossing distance, slow the speed of turning motorists, make it easier for pedestrians to see approaching traffic, and give motorists a better view of people waiting to cross.
• Install raised medians on wide roads. These give pedestrians a protected half-way point to stand in if they can’t make it across the street during one traffic light cycle. However, at signalized intersections, it’s important to install “pedestrian push buttons” on the median, so pedestrians aren't stranded in the middle of the street.
• It may be necessary to remove car parking near intersections and at mid-block crosswalks so pedestrians and drivers can see each other. This is especially important where young pedestrians are common; it is very hard for drivers to see youngsters through parked cars.
• Increase the amount of time a traffic light gives people to cross the street. This is especially important in an area with many older adults, people with disabilities, and young children.

People in wheelchairs can’t get around.  How do I change that?

Accessibility for all citizens is an important tenant of walkable communities. It is important to ensure that people with wheelchairs and other mobility issues have equal access to all that our communities provide. Obstacles in the sidewalk such as utility poles and newspaper boxes that make travel difficult or impossible for disabled people are often the same stumbling blocks that make walking unpleasant or unsafe for everyone. Elements that are important include:

• Ensuring that the sidewalk is free of obstacles.
• If obstacles are necessary, ensure that there is sufficient space for people with mobility issues to avoid the problem.
• Properly designed curb cuts are necessary for people with disabilities.
• Use of chirping crosswalks for the blind, as well as sidewalk ‘edges’.
• Sidewalk widths that consider a wheelchair as well as someone passing them in a smooth enough surface for ease of movement.
• Winter care that ensures sidewalks are properly maintained for passage throughout the year.