City Releases New Design Recommendations for Sidewalks

The latest update to the city's Active Design Guidelines recommends treatments for the four “planes” framing the sidewalk — the canopy, the ground plane, the building wall, and the roadside. Photo: ##http://centerforactivedesign.org/sidewalks##Center for Active Design##

Last month at the the eighth Fit City conference, the same day DOT unveiled a new pedestrian wayfinding initiative, the city released an update to its Active Design Guidelines focusing specifically on sidewalk design. Although the new guidelines are just suggestions, the new document lays out a vision for how the city’s sidewalks can be designed to encourage more walking, and it has the imprimatur of the mayor and the commissioners of transportation, city planning, health, and design and construction.

The two-part document, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, categorizes its recommendations into four “planes” framing the sidewalk — the canopy, the ground plane, the building wall, and the roadside. The authors visited more than 30 sidewalks in six cities to observe and measure what gets people to walk more, and what doesn’t. The guide recognizes the many types of sidewalks in New York, from busy Midtown to quiet residential streets lined with trees and lawns. It identifies six attributes of a good sidewalk: safety, accessibility, sustainability and resilience, human scale, continuous variety, and connectivity.

Although the report does not propose specific regulatory changes, it does include general suggestions for how zoning, agency design guides, and other rules can be used to improve the sidewalk experience.

The report recommends constant variety in retail stores — also known as “skinny storefronts” — to foster an engaging environment for walking. On the Upper West Side, a rezoning last year restricted storefront width to 40 feet, with the goal of keeping blocks from becoming monotonous and uninviting to pedestrians.

These types of policies can make or break a streetscape. On Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, a wave of new development following a 2003 rezoning faced the sidewalk with big blank walls and parking lots. Eventually the Department of City Planning updated the zoning, banning garages next to the sidewalk on the avenue and mandating some retail on ground floors.

  • Ben Kintisch

    No, folks, it ain’t sexy, but better sidewalks and sidewalk design help to make healthy and active transportation a viable option for our citizens.

  • Miles Bader

    It’s kinda sexy too… :]

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

NYC Agencies Team Up on Guidelines for an Active City

|
City officials, architects, planners, and public health advocates crammed into the Center for Architecture last night for the unveiling of New York City’s Active Design Guidelines. Heralded as a first-of-its-kind collaboration between four city departments — Health, Transportation, Design and Construction, and City Planning — the effort underscores that New Yorkers, as much as we […]

The NYC Street Design Manual: Guidelines for a Livable City

|
At about the same time that Times Square went car-free, DOT released its Street Design Manual, a mammoth document that "provides policies and design guidelines… for the improvement of streets and sidewalks throughout the five boroughs." It’s not as sexy as the Naked Cowboy in a pedestrian plaza, but I would be hard-pressed to overstate […]

Wider Sidewalks Coming to Flushing’s Crowded Main Street

|
Main Street in Flushing gets more foot traffic than anywhere else in New York after Times Square, but its sidewalks are too narrow to handle all those people. So later this month, the city will begin expanding the sidewalks on four blocks of Main Street, Council Member Peter Koo, DOT, and the Department of Design and […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Louisville Removes Sidewalk “For Safety”

|
Louisville is in the middle of a three-year, federally-funded safety initiative to reduce the city’s high rate of pedestrian fatalities. Per capita, four times the number of people are killed walking in Louisville than in Washington, DC. Some good improvements are in the works, but the people in charge of Louisville’s streets clearly need to get over some bad habits. Branden Klayko […]