Urban communities and neighborhoods created before the mid-1900’s focused on the pedestrian.  These communities were designed to move people to their destinations.  Dispersed development patterns and the separation of uses over the last fifty years have led to an increased reliance on personal automobiles and to an elimination of many characteristics that support walkable/bikeable communities.  Conventional land use regulations often prohibits the mixing of land uses, lengthening trips and diminishing the opportunities to walk or bike to destinations.  Auto dependent, dispersed neighborhoods employ street development design practices which reduce pedestrian activity.

Throughout our communities in the San Joaquin Valley, there is a growing need and responsibility to provide options that give people the opportunity to walk/bike more often, to more places and to feel safe while doing so.  The positive consequences of walking/biking span across many aspects of our lives.  These consequences can be expressed in terms of the health of our environment, the health of individuals as well as the health of all living things.  A transportation system that is conducive to walking can reap benefits in terms of reduced traffic congestion and improved quality of life.  Economic rewards both to the individual and to the community can be realized through reduced health care costs and reduced dependency on car ownership leading to reduced insurance and maintenance costs.  Communities which support bicycle and pedestrian mobility have an increased economic vitality.  Within a walkable/bikeable community there is more equality with transportation choices available to all residents.

Walkable/bikeable communities are desirable places to live, work, learn, worship and play.  They are also integral to achieving the goals of sustainable growth as they enhance mobility, reduce negative environmental consequences, strengthen economies and support stronger communities through improved social interaction.   Communities can be built so that walking/biking to destinations is a viable option; improving access to services for the residents who are too old, too young or too poor to drive.

Pleasant, Walkable Street, Newport Beach California

Advantages of Walkable/Bikeable Communities

From the local scale to the regional scale, walkable/bikeable communities have many benefits.  They encourage a mix of housing choices to suit various stages of life from the single, young adults, to families with children to empty-nesters and retirees.  Walkable/bikeable communities channel growth in new areas to protect habitat, agricultural land and open space.  They reduce dependency on the automobile and reduce infrastructure investment costs. 

Urban Revitalization

Walkable/bikeable communities form an efficient framework for infill and redevelopment of underutilized lands in older urban and suburban area.  Tools to increase pedestrian access help communities improve their livability and compete regionally for residents, workers and shoppers.

Creating communities that are walkable/bikeable in existing but underutilized areas is particularly cost-effective as the public infrastructure (roads, parking areas, street lights, transit services and parks) already exists.  Making an existing community more walkable/bikeable also capitalizes on and enhances the historic, cultural and aesthetic infrastructure.

Downtown Fresno - 1903 Building with New Stadium

Choice of Housing for Different Stages of Life

As discussed in the Housing Opportunities section, the population and demographic trends of the San Joaquin Valley are leading to a diversity of households.  Household types found in our communities range from young, single adults; young, married couples; families with small children; families with older children; empty-nesters; and older, retired singles and couples.  Mixing these housing types in a well-designed walkable/bikeable community allows people to continue to live in the same community as their housing needs change, rather than forcing them to move in order to find acceptable housing.  With schools, housing, shopping and banking within a walkable/bikeable community, children, seniors and those who lack access to cars have greater autonomy to take do for themselves.

Choice of Sites for Commercial Tenants

Walkable/bikeable communities also provide choice and diversity for retail, office uses and other tenants.  Visitors, who drive to a community of this nature to shop, can park just once and walk to all of their destinations and errands.  This eliminates the need for multiple, short trips from store to store, parking lot to parking lot.  Employees of a walkable/bikeable community who walk or bike to work can easily find a restaurant within a few blocks for lunch and pick-up fresh items to complete dinner on their way home.  Retailers can providing places to stroll, linger and people-watch offering residents, employers and employees a rich shopping experience.

Regional Balance

Many central city and suburban areas of the San Joaquin Valley have become unbalanced in terms of land use.  Our downtown areas have become places that lack housing and evening and weekend activity.  Our suburbs separate housing, retail and employment into mutually exclusive areas making us dependent upon our cars for the simplest of errands.

Walkable/bikeable communities can be part of an organized, concerted effort to address region-wide accessibility, congestion and sprawl.  Channeling development in compact patterns, reducing automobile dependency and improving the public transit system will help the regional transportation network perform better.  Because walkable/bikeable communities complement housing with nearby retail, employment and community services; they help improve the ratio of jobs to housing both locally and regionally.   Our residents need to be able to live, work and shop in the same community.  The mix of uses may help local governments achieve greater economic strength and resiliency in the face of recessions or market declines.  Individual developers and business will gain a wider market area because of street connectivity and population within a walkable/bikeable community.


Activities such as walking, biking, roller skating, street vending and people watching fosters a safer environment as there are always people present to watch out for one another.  Pedestrian-oriented design features with street facing storefronts, windows and porches also help provide an informal surveillance with “eyes on the streets”.

Crime prevention through environmental design recognizes that the design and use of a physical environment affects crime by affecting human behavior.  Criminals don’t want to be seen.  Placing physical features, activities and people in ways that maximize visibility discourages crime.

Improving safety for children and pedestrians in a walkable/bikeable community can be accomplished with street design.  Balanced, reasonable street widths, park strips, street trees and traffic-calming measures such as roundabouts slow traffic to manageable levels.

Environmental Benefits

Walkable/bikeable communities have numerous indirect environmental benefits.  By channeling development in compact patterns, walkable/bikeable help preserve open space, habitat and other sensitive lands.  Development that might encroach on critical lands is steered instead to vacant or redevelopable parcels in areas with existing infrastructure, or to buildable sites in designated new areas.

Trees help mitigate “urban heat islands” caused when asphalt and other man-made surfaces absorb and radiate heat, making ambient air temperatures much higher in urban and suburban areas.  Trees reduce energy demand for air conditioning in homes and businesses as the shade lowers ambient air and ground temperatures.  Trees also reduce carbon dioxide levels in the air, filter pollutants and produce oxygen.

Air and water quality improve when people are able to walk and bike more and drive less.  Automobile emissions are reduced, including chemicals and particulates from tail-pipes and particulate matter from tires.  Much of these pollutants are washed into streams and other water bodies during heavy storms.


A community identity is created by a central core of activity in each walkable/bikeable community and the traditional design features of its streets.  The test for what constitutes a walking/biking community is as simple as asking the question:  “Is walking an attractive option for accomplishing daily tasks”?  This question can lead communities in entirely new directions, and achieving walkability/bikability goes a long way to creating convenient, attractive, livable communities.
A number of factors must be achieved in order to make walking/biking an attractive option:
  •          Destinations such as work, schools, restaurants, corner stores, dry cleaners and shops must be close
  •          Neighborhoods must include compact development
  •          The walk/ride must be safe from crime and traffic
  •          Road design must accommodate pedestrian/bike traffic with direct routes
  •          Walkable/bikeable communities must be pleasant
Downtown Fresno Plaza

Density, Diversity and Design

Making communities walkable and bikeable is not a mysterious process.  People will naturally walk or bike more if useful destinations are close to their homes and places of work and if the surrounding environment is reasonably safe, interesting and pleasant.  Walkable/bikeable communities share several key characteristics that differ from the auto-oriented development.

Walkable communities are compact, built at somewhat higher densities then conventional development.  This compactness brings people and destinations closer together.  Compact communities that are walkable/bikeable contain a diversity and mix of uses as well as useful destinations and daily conveniences clustered at the center of the community.  This mix of uses minimizes distances between housing and destinations such as shopping and day care.  A mix of uses fosters higher levels of pedestrian activity which in turn creates a sense of safety.  Transit service at the core of the community links these high-intensity areas to their surroundings and riders to shops and services.

Walkable/bikeable communities have a human scale making walking and bicycling more enjoyable.  Non-residential buildings with many windows and doors are set close to the street.  This configuration enhances the relationship between the private realm of buildings and the public realm of the street, creating an interesting walking environment.  Narrower streets cause drivers to be more cautious, which slows traffic and reduces accidents.  Smaller street widths also minimize crosswalk distances for pedestrians.

Applicability to a Range of Scales

The principles of walkable/bikeable communities apply to neighborhoods of many different scales.  While a walkable/bikeable community may be a typical neighborhood-sized area, it should be combined and linked with whole towns, cities and regions.  Pedestrian friendly concepts can be applied to development ranging in scale from individual buildings to small business districts to large downtown cities.  The concept can be applied to different types of locations as well.  It can be used for infill development, for new growth at the edge of an existing development or for freestanding new towns.

Finding Appropriate Areas for Walkable/Bikeable Communities

Communities must determine which areas are most appropriate to be walkable/bikeable areas.  A walkable/bikeable area should be large enough, through new development or redevelopment, to create a critical mass of activity.  Walkable/bikeable areas should be connected to the greater community, not be isolated islands.

Communities which are walkable/bikeable should not be cut off by infrastructure or environmental constraints.  Wide arterial roads with heavy traffic and transit facilities such as train tracks or grade-separated busways may act as barriers to pedestrian access.  Environmental constraints such as steep slopes can also restrict pedestrian accessibility and limit the amount of land available for development.  Park-and-ride lots, buildings with no opportunity for “pass-throughs’ and transit stops or stations can constitute pedestrian barriers.

In some situations, a more appropriate configuration may be a “one-sided” walkable/bikeable area.  This approach could be used to place large retail business that require high-visibility from car traffic along an arterial street, while focusing pedestrian scale elements farther inside the community way from the arterial street.

Who Creates Walkable Communities?

Public and private actions help create walkable/bikeable communities.  Public planning staff, front desk clerks, engineers, public works departments and legislative boards provide a public framework of streets, trees, parks and natural open spaces.  They also regulate and guide private development.  Private developers build pedestrian-scale, livable communities.  By frequenting the shops and living in walkable/bikeable communities, private citizens help encourage and promote walkable development.


Numerous jurisdictions around the world have successfully created walkable/bikeable communities.  Because almost every trip requires some walking, we can all identify things that make walking/biking pleasant in our individual environments.  There are several tools available to members of the San Joaquin Valley region which will assist them in making their communities, existing and new, walkable and bikeable.

Shaping a Walkable/Bikeable Community

Develop a Pedestrian Master Plan

Downtown Chico Plaza
Residents are more likely to choose walking over other modes of transportation when they are provided with access to sidewalks, trails or other walkable features.  Unfortunately, most communities are designed without basic walking features and with little focus on how the neighborhood can accommodate pedestrian traffic.  For most neighborhoods, public improvements that make walking/biking a more attractive option are possible, but there is often no evaluation of these needs during the planning process.  As a result, infrastructure improvements often do not address walking or biking, perpetuating existing problems.  A pedestrian master plan can help focus time and attention on improvements to pedestrian traffic.

The pedestrian master plan should provide an approach to walkability/bikability that is consistent, yet allows flexibility, by adopting policies, prioritizing current and future funding mechanisms, and furnishing design and implementation guidelines for projects.  The plan may include model codes and ordinances, technical guidelines, estimated project costs, public transit and automobile traffic coordination, and land acquisition and growth issues.  Special attention should be given to highway and street design (including retrofitting existing infrastructure), the distribution of parks and recreation facilities and school location.  The entire community should be involved in the planning process.  A special emphasis should be placed on the participation of senior citizens, children, people with disabilities and those who do not use cars.  The pedestrian master plan should encourage community feedback and review and inform adjacent local governments, developments and neighborhoods of planned linkages

Configure Communities for Convenient Pedestrian Access with a Diverse, Mixed-Use Central Core of Retail and Services

All areas in a walkable/bikeable community have easy pedestrian access to a core area that contains retail, transit and other conveniences.  Ideally, this core is near or at the center of the walkable/bikeable area and is surrounded by higher intensity uses.  A connected street network links the core to the remainder of the community.  Busy arterial roadways, large parking lots and rugged terrain should not impede pedestrian movement.


Pedestrian Plaza - Columbus, Ohio
Walkable/bikeable communities have an ideal minimum and maximum size.  The minimum physical size of a walkable/bikeable community guarantees that there will be enough population to support retail and other services.  The maximum size of a pedestrian friendly community ensures that residents and workers will be able to walk to the services in the core.  A one-half-mile walk that takes about 10 minutes constitutes the outer limits of a pedestrian friendly community, while a higher concentration of uses should occur within a one-quarter-mile radius.  A walkable/bikeable community can cover from 30 to 500 acres depending on the scale of the community and the regional location.

The size of the core area will vary with the scale, character and accessibility of the individual community.  For example, a small village may be able to support only a minimal amount of retail or community-oriented services.  Larger towns and higher density areas will be able to support a large amount of retail as well as offices and other community functions.  Outside of the core of a walkable/bikeable community will be compromised of moderate-density housing.  Parks and other uses can be included as long as they contribute to the pedestrian-friendly environment.

Size Communities for Easy Walking

Walkable/bikeable communities have an ideal minimum and maximum size.  The minimum physical size of a walkable/bikeable community guarantees that there will be enough population to support retail and other services.  The maximum size of a pedestrian friendly community ensures that residents and workers will be able to walk to the services in the core.  A one-half-mile walk that takes about 10 minutes constitutes the outer limits of a pedestrian friendly community, while a higher concentration of uses should occur within a one-quarter-mile radius.  A walkable/bikeable community can cover from 30 to 500 acres depending on the scale of the community and the regional location.

Increase Street Connectivity

An interconnected street network reduces the traffic load on any single street by dispersing it.  Without interconnected streets, arterials become congested with traffic and become unwalkable barriers to pedestrian activity.  Streets that connect help pedestrians with direct walking routes in comparison to standard cul-de-sac subdivisions.  Increased street connectivity can be accomplished with a traditional gridiron pattern, but there are more interesting alternative street layouts that offer the same advantages.  Connected street patterns may take a curvilinear form or a radical form.

Develop Walking Awareness and Promotion Programs

Due to a lack of available information, many residents may simply not know about existing safe and convenient pedestrian routes to their desired destinations.  Communities with an effective pedestrian information strategy can reduce the amount of land used for transportation, improve overall community health and reduce obesity, boost community interactions and make neighborhoods attractive and livable.

Walking awareness programs can inform community members about pedestrian infrastructure and services.  Newsletters, maps, walking guides, and pedestrian-scaled signage may promote available and planned walking routes as well as the benefits of walking to nearby destinations.  Collaboration among health, safety, building, transportation and land use planners and community development stakeholders can facilitate an awareness campaign that touches on a broad range of issues and reaches a diverse audience.

Walking promotion programs can substantiate walking as an achievable and convenient means of transportation.  Local walking events, street festivals and community walking tours introduce community members to the available infrastructure and can be an outlet for information about available routes, health benefits, safety and pedestrian rights and responsibilities.  Public and private entities can work together to provide support and incentives for programs like walking contests with prizes, step counters and informational packets.  Media can work with local government officials and planners to specifically promote and inform residents about available trails and routes.

Public Streets and Parks Form the Framework of Walkable/Bikeable Communities

Design Streets for Pedestrian Comfort

Streets are public investments that shape the public realm and provide a civic gathering space for the community.  Streets in a walkable/bikeable community provide for the comfort of the pedestrian as well as the needs of the automobile.  Walkable/bikeable community streets are lined with buildings rather than parking lots.  Parking is set behind the buildings, away from the street.  Streets have trees to shade pedestrians and motorists.  Minimum roadway widths discourage fast automobile access throughout the area.

Use Trees and Green Infrastructure to Provide Shelter, Beauty, Urban Heat Reduction and Separation from Auto Traffic

Tree Lined Bike Path - Davis, California
All too often the pedestrian environment is inhospitable.  There may be no shade from the sun or visual relief from the sameness of the buildings.  When sidewalks are close to the street edge, pedestrians feel exposed to oncoming traffic.  Planting street trees and other green infrastructure can alleviate many of these issues and make for a pleasant, comfortable, and safe walking/biking experience.

A good tree canopy creates a comfortable environment for pedestrians.  In some cities, highly paved areas can be six to eight degrees hotter than areas with greater vegetation.  Vegetation also absorbs carbon dioxide and filters air and pollutants, thus increasing air quality, lessening asthma-related health problems and reducing water treatment costs.

Trees and other vegetation can also act as a buffer between pedestrians and cars.  To simultaneously create the shade canopy and a buffer zone, many neighborhoods use a landscaped strip between the sidewalk and the street.  In the urban core, a continuous landscaped strip may not be possible, or desirable, but street trees can still be placed in tree boxes or cut-outs.  Trees are not the only option for buffers.  Planters made of concrete or other materials and filled with greenery or flowering plants can also be used.  In addition, landscaped islands and medians can create refuges for crossing pedestrians and can slow though-traffic by narrowing the lands for car travel.

To protect these investments over the long term, communities should provide the policy framework and resources to properly maintain the vegetation.  Many communities have enacted tree ordinance that cover issues such as the placement, care and maintenance of trees.

Set Aside Space for Parks and Open Space

Parks, plazas and other open spaces serve as focal points for civic life, allowing a range of spaces for active sports and passive recreation – sitting, people-watching.  These spaces may be located adjacent to retail, office and other higher-intensity uses in mixed-use and commercial areas as well as in quieter residential areas.

The perimeter around a park should be surrounded by streets and building fronts to provide activity and informal surveillance.  One notable exception is where parks abut sensitive lands or open space.  In no case should a park be located behind buildings, away from public view and access.

Consider Park Streets to Calm Traffic and Increase the Amount of On-Street Parking

A “park street” or “park block” is a street with a linear park at the center, with one-way streets running on both sides.  They are an appropriate device to separate two-way traffic into a one-way couplet, with road and on-street parking on both sides.  They are successful at reducing traffic congestion from turning movements because they create more space for queuing.  Extremely wide roadways can be retro-fitted as park streets.  In order to function as usable recreational space, these park streets should be at least 80 feet in width from inner curb to inner curb.

Minimize Roadway Width

Wide streets and the traffic levels found on them can create a hazardous walking environment, create barriers for pedestrians trying to cross the street and divide a community into two halves.  Automobile travel speeds tend to increase on wider roads.  Narrow roadways tend to have the effect of making drivers travel more slowly and cautiously.  On-street parking can also help to provide a buffer between street traffic and sidewalk pedestrians while encouraging drivers to travel more slowly.

Place Transit Stops and Stations in the Core and Encourage Safe Pedestrian Routes to Transit

Transit works best when people can walk to it, yet in many places, an overwhelming majority of transit riders reach their transit stops via car.  There are two main obstacles that prevent people from walking to transit.  The first is that street and sidewalk networks in transit corridors and around bus stops and rail stations are not designed with the pedestrian in mind.  For example, many bus stops can be found at dangerous intersections, on highway shoulders, or on streets which have narrow or no sidewalks.  The second obstacle is that many transit stations are surrounded by large parking lots.  If the distance a typical person is willing to walk from transit to a destination is a quarter-mile, and half of that distance is taken up by a parking lot, many walking trips have been effectively deterred.  Although “park-and-ride” commuter transit stations can play a useful role in outlying areas, the parking requirements and design standards are different in urban settings.

If there is transit service to a walkable/bikeable community, the stops or stations should be located in the high-activity core.  Road and pathway connections to transit stops or stations should minimize pedestrian travel distances.  The overall character of the transit station should be pedestrian-friendly with direct paths lined by street trees, landscaping and benches.  Transit stops should be sited where the street is level, with a barrier-free sidewalk, and where there is space to build a firm-surfaced pad that can accommodate a wheelchair as well as standing passengers.

Many states, local governments and transit agencies are now paying more attention to pedestrian safety and accessibility to transit.  Through a collaborative approach, these decision makers can review the layout, locations, lighting, and connectivity between existing neighborhoods, new developments, rail stations and bus stops to increase safety, shelter and convenience

Shaping a Walkable Community in Privately Owned Areas

Design Guidelines for Mixed-Use and Commercial Buildings

Use buildings to frame the street
Buildings in walkable/bikeable communities should create a fairly continuous “street-wall” with minimal breaks for driveways, curb cuts, parks, plazas and side yards.  Parking lots should be sited behind buildings, away from the street.  Small parking lots along the sides of buildings are acceptable as long as they minimized their frontage and curb cuts along the streets.

Minimize building setbacks from the street
Buildings should be sited close to and face onto the sidewalk to create a more interesting walking environment.  Ideally, commercial and mixed-use buildings should be located at, or within, ten feet of a public sidewalk.  Residential uses may be set back somewhat.

Street-facing facades
The primary building entry and windows should be visible from the street, and their facades should not have large segments of blank wall.  Windows and entries should be used to break up facades into segments.  Where parking structures are located along pedestrian-oriented streets, they should contain shops or other inhabitable spaces.  The frequency of garage doors and parking structure entrances should be minimized.

Situate parking to enhance the pedestrian environment and facilitate access between destinations
Parking lot design may force pedestrians to take unsafe routes between parked and moving cars to reach their destinations without the benefit of sidewalks or other guidance measures.  The design of large surface parking lots in urban centers may cause pedestrians to walk further to access otherwise adjacent buildings.  Large parking areas located in front of buildings separate pedestrian traffic from business and leave walkers isolated in an unappealing environment.

Well-designed parking can actually enhance convenience and accessibility for those on foot.  For example, on-street parking may reduce auto speed and function as a barrier between pedestrians and traffic.  Parking which incorporates sidewalks, crossings, signs and other pedestrian-scaled features and is situated in proximity to multiple destinations can provide a connection to a variety of activities, instead of making it difficult to go from errand to errand.

Many cities are now creating parking districts to raise funds to help solve urban parking problems; land for large parking areas may be too expensive for each business to provide individually, yet each business often must provide some parking spaces to remain competitive.  Consolidated structured parking approaches may actually reduce the overall amount of parking needed in a business district.

River Park Shopping Center - Fresno, California
Retrofit existing commercial areas for pedestrian access
The modern commercial landscape is a familiar sight, with one shopping center after another arranged along a wide, sidewalk-less street.  Many of these strip commercial districts are successful economically, but they certainly make it difficult to get there on foot, or walk around once you arrive.  Strip commercial areas may also be fenced off from one another to discourage anyone who is bold enough to walk from one to the next.  Buildings are set back behind generously-sized parking lots.

Following are some ways to make these areas more pedestrian-friendly:

  • Add continuous sidewalks – sidewalks should be on both sides of the street, linking shopping centers and  including landscaping with street trees and planter strips
  • Improve crosswalks – add or improve crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals at intersections and between high-volume shopping centers to allow pedestrians to cross busy arterial streets safely
  • Remove fences between adjacent shopping centers – business will benefit from increased pedestrian patronage
  • Reinforce pedestrian connections through parking lots – make it safe for people to walk from the sidewalk through parking lots up to building entrances.  Solutions include painted or colored asphalt, different paving material or texture, raised walkways, shrubs, shade trees and other landscaping
  • Make parking lots cooler – regularly-spaced “orchard” trees can shade parking lots and make them more hospitable to walking
  • Infill parking lots with small buildings that face onto the street - camera stores, cafes and flower shops usually have small square footage and could be sited at the street to make walking along the sidewalk a bit more interesting and varied

Methods for Achieving Walkable Communities

Integrate Pedestrian Access into the Community Master Plan

Stakeholders, citizens and public officials, must work together to assure that the vision for a walkable/bikeable community is clearly articulated and included among the goals for the community general plan.  Clear goals permit stakeholders to see how all elements of the plan fit together.  A clear plan will help ensure that redevelopment follows the initial vision over the years and decades.  The community can monitor the general plan as parcels redevelop, streets are repaved or other opportunities arise to implement portions of the plan.  The plan can include maps that show the planned street network, open spaces and land uses and explain the desired quality of the urban landscape.

Require Building Design that Makes Commercial Areas More Walkable

Shops, offices, public facilities, and other nonresidential uses are destinations as well as community assets.  Diverse streetscapes with retail shops, restaurants, public art and other amenities encourage people to linger.  A lively and inviting street is viewed as safe and attractive, whereas an empty street, void of pedestrian activity, can convey abandonment or danger.  Building aspects that isolate people and discourage pedestrian activity include “faceless” buildings without windows and doors at eye level, buildings with no first-floor retail, or buildings that are set back a great distance from the street.  Increasing pedestrian traffic in these areas requires that buildings incorporate designs that create a sense of place and security.

There are several tools that local governments can use to make commercial reas more walkable, including design guidelines and zoning.  Zoning for new construction can ensure that ground floor space faces the street, street-level retail is included in appropriate areas, structures are built to lot lines and building fronts are made permeable by the placement of doors and windows.  Zoning and street standards can ensure that blocks are kept short, sidewalk commerce in encouraged and parking between buildings and sidewalks is eliminated.

Adopt Design Standards for Streets That Ensure Safety and Mobility

Making communities walkable/bikeable requires that pedestrians and bicycles feel comfortable and secure enough to share the street with buses and automobiles.  For example, conventional street design places the automobile at the top of the hierarchy of transportation modes, thus giving priority to the automobile access and efficiency above other considerations.  Traditional street design offers considerable advantages over conventional street design for providing a sense of security and convenience.  Short blocks, narrow street widths, landscaping, on-street parking, through streets and walkways characterized traditional streets and lead to streets that balance the needs of different transportation modes.  In addition, these characteristics keep urban traffic dispersed and at low speeds – two important considerations for ensuring the safety of pedestrians.

Neighborhood and urban streets must be designed to facilitate pedestrian crossings.  In general, pedestrians will cross streets at crossing points as long as it requires going no more than 150 feet out of their way.  For this reason, well-designed communities ensure convenient crossing points every 300 feet.  This spacing is especially important on main streets.

The development of regulations and incentives that encourage traditional street design prior to construction can contribute to a street network and design that support pedestrian and other non-motorized forms of travel.  Through the use of subdivision regulations, communities can require that new developments contain on-street parking, landscaping, sidewalks, narrow roadways, short blocks, grid-patterned streets, and well-marked bicycle lanes.  Zoning can be used to reduce setback requirements or require consistent, human-scaled design of storefronts.

Adopt Design Standards for sidewalks

Better sidewalks require better design.  Sidewalks need adequate widths, buffers, continuity, connectivity and edges to ensure that they meet the needs of pedestrians.  However, too few local officials understand these needs and fail to provide direction or funding for constructing or retrofitting sidewalks.  Many new developments lack sidewalks, because often no local requirement to build them exists.  Through the use of design standards, regular public investment, periodic evaluation of sidewalk performance and subdivision design, communities can provide citizens with secure, convenient and lasting sidewalks.

Left – Unfinished Roadway, Right – Finished Roadway with Sidewalk & Bike Lane
Specific design standards might include requiring a minimum width for sidewalks, buffers to shield users from traffic or edges to clearly mark pedestrian zones.  For example, a design standard for sidewalk width might set a minimum requirement of at least five feet.  To encourage more comfortable walking and higher volumes of pedestrians in commercial and school districts, sidewalk widths should increase to eight to twelve feet.  Large successful downtowns have widths of 20 to 30 feet or even a fifty-fifty ratio of street to sidewalk widths.  Sidewalk design standards might also specify buffers and edges.  For example, design standards might require planter strips of four to six feet in suburban areas or recommend that fencing, shrubs and other features form edges to parking lots, open lots or other areas that must be traversed.  Other design standards that can improve the pedestrian experience include instituting traffic-calming measures and providing landscaping and street trees to buffer pedestrians from traffic, locating sidewalks close to building fronts, discouraging off-street parking, encouraging on-street parallel parking and providing adequate lighting and ample street crossings.

Require Traffic Calming Techniques

Many new or updated residential streets today are designed to maximize vehicular flow.  Long blocks, wide turning radii and broad streets create a comfort zone for drivers, which encourages speeding and discourages pedestrians.  Car volume and speeds often increase because of the lack of pedestrians, which increases perceptions of unsafe walking conditions and leads to further declines in pedestrian use.  Traffic-calming techniques can help balance pedestrian and vehicular use by slowing neighborhood and main street speeds, encouraging walking.  Traffic calming techniques can be used both to retrofit existing streets and to design new streets.

Traffic calming is a way to design streets, using physical measures, to encourage people to drive more slowly.  It creates physical and visual cues that induce drivers to travel at slower speeds.  Traffic calming is self-enforcing.  The design of the roadway results in the desired effect, without relying on compliance with traffic control devices such as signals and signs, or enforcement.  While elements such as landscaping and lighting do not force a change in driver behavior, they can provide the visual clues that encourage people to drive more slowly.

Traffic calming measures generally include changes in street design, such as incorporating traffic circles to replace traffic lights or stop signs, shorter turning radii, speed humps, narrower streets, or curves in roadways to create shorter visual horizons.  Other measures directly address the pedestrian, such as raised crosswalks, landscaped islands between opposing lanes of traffic, and fewer road lanes.  These structural changes are often regarded as more effective at reducing speeds on streets then ticketing and enforcement and help return the street to all users, bikers, walkers, drivers and buses.
Examples of Traffic Calming Measures From Left, Traffic Roundabout, Textured Sidewalk and Speed Bumps

Provide Grants or Other Financial Assistance to Retrofit Existing Streets and Sidewalks

As with any construction activity, retrofitting streets and sidewalks and adding pedestrian-friendly amenities to existing developments cost money.  In today’s fiscal climate, where communities sometimes omit sidewalks, landscaping, crosswalks and other features that support walkability, the importance of additional sources of funding for these changes cannot be understated.  State governments can play a powerful role by directing financial resources and technical support to the aid local efforts.  Targeted use of state and federal transportation funds can assist communities in initiating or completing pilot retrofitting projects, thus demonstrating the benefits of improved walkability and generating further support for expanded local financing of pedestrian-friendly retrofits.

Federal sources of funding are also available, such as the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which supports the integration of bicycling and walking into the transportation mainstream.  More importantly, it enhances the ability of communities to invest in projects that improve the safety and practicality of bicycling and walking for everyday travel.  Bicycle and pedestrian projects are broadly eligible for funding from almost all the major federal transportation programs including highway, transit and safety.

Connect Walkways, Parking Lots, Greenways and Developments

Communities need many links to facilitate pedestrian travel.  Even when residential and commercial areas are in close proximity to one another, without adequate connections, community residents are discouraged from substituting short vehicle trips with walking.  Unfortunately, conventional land use and design has often resulted in a street network with few or no through streets and walkways.  In contrast, traditional street networks typically have shorter blocks and numerous through streets, providing pedestrians with multiple routes by which to reach their destination.  Retrofitting conventional street networks so that they have the connectivity exhibited by traditional street networks is challenging, but possible by using natural features like utility corridors, waterways and other open spaces to link existing walkways and destinations.

Beautify and Maintain Existing and Future Walkways

Maintained Walk/Bike Trail
Making communities walkable not only means providing residents with pedestrian and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure; crosswalks, bike lanes, sidewalks, but also maintaining that infrastructure.  Sidewalks, streets and street drains that are not maintained act as a disincentive for potential pedestrians and may pose a threat to the safety for bicyclist and people who use other non-motorized means of transportation.

Attractive and well-maintained walkways encourage more people to walk to their destinations.  Communities that incorporate or create landscaping along right-of-ways, in town centers, along open spaces, and around other focus areas, encourage walking by providing a more enticing environment.  Public art, seating and frequently-maintained trash receptacles in heavily trafficked areas such as town centers, civic plazas, parks and along transportation corridors also contribute to the overall pedestrian experience

Sidewalks require maintenance to ensure that they provide a hospitable pedestrian environment and to extend their useful life.  While streets are routinely swept, patched, reconditioned, and serviced, sidewalks in the same neighborhood are often ignored.  Periodic, ongoing repairs and maintenance are necessary.  Healthy neighborhoods have adequate measures to identify and correct maintenance problems.  Bushes, trees and other vegetation need to be regularly trimmed.  By developing ad enforcing ordinances and building codes to set standards for yard maintenance, debris clearing, and bush and tree trimming, local officials can help ensure that property owners are doing their part to augment the public investment in safe, well-maintained sidewalks.

Identify Economic Opportunities that Stimulate Pedestrian Activity

Design standards, traffic-calming measures, and the other policies discussed all work to create an environment that is pedestrian friendly.  In addition to those direct mechanisms of creating walkable communities, local governments can also identify economic or retail opportunities that stimulate and attract pedestrian activity.  Main Street development programs, first floor retail, sidewalk service and pedestrian malls all capitalize on pedestrian activity for economic development purposes.  Communities can enhance walkability by identifying important local assets such as; natural features, historic districts, or unique architectural design and by developing economic development strategies that use those assets to attract pedestrians to retail and restaurant venues.  For example, many communities have Main Street programs that are designed to revitalize urban cores or downtown corridors.  This idea can be seen in update New York where they are revitalizing their historic Main Streets with the specific goal of attracting tourists from larger downtown cities by getting them out of their cars and onto the sidewalks where they can browse the antique, craft and other shops native to these small towns.

Pedestrian malls create a relationship between the pedestrian shopper and the storekeeper that is mutually reinforcing.  With the growth in customers who are able to gain access to shops on foot, the stores flourish and are in turn able to attract more pedestrians as the retail district grows stronger.  Communities can use economic revitalization as a magnet for pedestrian activity in any number of ways.


A wide variety of resources and programs are available to help the San Joaquin Valley region expand its housing choices.  The following listing contains relevant programs, resources and contacts for technical assistance, financial tools and specialized expertise available locally, as well as at the state and national level.

List here (to be inserted at a later date)