A sidewalk (American English) or pavement (British English), also
known as a footpath or footway, is a path along the side of a road. A
sidewalk may accommodate moderate changes in grade (height) and is
normally separated from the vehicular section by a curb. There may
also be a median strip or road verge (a strip of vegetation, grass or
bushes or trees or a combination of these) either between the sidewalk
and the roadway or between the sidewalk and the boundary.
In some places, the same term may also be used for a paved path, trail
or footpath that is not next to a road, for example, a path through a
Road traffic safety
3.5 Social uses
Tarmac and asphalt
6 See also
8 External links
The term "sidewalk" is usually preferred in most of North America,
along with many other countries worldwide that are not members of the
Commonwealth of Nations. The term "pavement" is more common in the
United Kingdom, as well as parts of the Mid-Atlantic United States
such as Philadelphia and New Jersey. Many Commonwealth countries
use the term "footpath". The professional, civil engineering and legal
term for this in North America is "sidewalk" while in the United
Kingdom it is "footway".
In the United States, the term sidewalk is used for the pedestrian
path beside a road. "Shared use paths" or "multi-use paths" are
available for use by both pedestrians and bicyclists. "Walkway" is
a more comprehensive term that includes stairs, ramps, passageways,
and related structures that facilitate the use of a path as well as
In the UK, the term "footpath" is mostly used for paths that do not
abut a roadway. The term "shared-use path" is used where cyclists
are also able to use the same section of path as pedestrians.
East India House, Leadenhall Street, London, 1766. The sidewalk is
separated from the main street by six bollards in front of the
There is evidence that sidewalks were built in ancient times. It was
claimed that the Greek city of
Corinth was paved by the 4th-century,
and the Romans were particularly prolific sidewalk builders – they
called them semitas.
However, by the Middle Ages, narrow roads had reverted to being
simultaneously used by pedestrians and wagons without any formal
separation between the two categories. Early attempts at ensuring the
adequate maintenance of foot-ways or sidewalks were often made, such
as the 1623 Act for Colchester, although they were generally not very
Great Fire of London
Great Fire of London in 1666, attempts were slowly made
to bring some order to the sprawling city. In 1671, 'Certain Orders,
Rules and Directions Touching the Paving and Cleansing The Streets,
Lanes and Common Passages within the City of London' were formulated,
calling for all streets to be adequately paved for pedestrians with
Purbeck stone was widely used as a durable paving
material. Bollards were also installed to protect pedestrians from the
traffic in the middle of the road.
A series of Paving Acts from the House of Commons during the 18th
century, especially the 1766 Paving & Lighting Act, authorized the
City of London Corporation
City of London Corporation to create foot-ways throughout all the
streets of London, to pave them with
Purbeck stone (the thoroughfare
in the middle was generally cobblestone) and to raise them above the
street level with curbs forming the separation. The Corporation
was also made responsible for the regular upkeep of the roads,
including their cleaning and repair, for which they charged a tax from
1766. By the late 19th-century large and spacious sidewalks were
routinely constructed in European capitals, and were associated with
In the United States, adjoining property owners must in most
situations finance all or part of the cost of sidewalk construction.
In a legal case in 1917 involving E. L. Stewart, a former member of
Louisiana House of Representatives
Louisiana House of Representatives and a lawyer in Minden in
Webster Parish, the
Louisiana Supreme Court
Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that owners must pay
whether they wish for the sidewalk to be constructed or not.
Pedestrians walking on the pavement (sidewalk) in London.
Sidewalks play an important role in transportation, as they provide a
safe path for people to walk along that is separated from the
motorized traffic. They aid road safety by minimizing interaction
between pedestrians and motorized traffic. Sidewalks are normally in
pairs, one on each side of the road, with the center section of the
road for motorized vehicles.
In rural roads, sidewalks may not be present as the amount of traffic
(pedestrian or motorized) may not be enough to justify separating the
two. In suburban and urban areas, sidewalks are more common. In town
and city centers (known as downtown in North America) the amount of
pedestrian traffic can exceed motorized traffic, and in this case the
sidewalks can occupy more than half of the width of the road, or the
whole road can be reserved for pedestrians, see
Sidewalks may have a small effect on reducing vehicle miles traveled
and carbon dioxide emissions. A study of sidewalk and transit
investments in Seattle neighborhoods found vehicle travel reductions
of 6 to 8% and CO2 emission reductions of 1.3 to 2.2% 
Road traffic safety
Sidewalk with bike path
Road traffic safety
Research commissioned for the Florida Department of Transportation,
published in 2005, found that, in Florida, the Crash Reduction Factor
(used to estimate the expected reduction of crashes during a given
period) resulting from the installation of sidewalks averaged 74%.
Research at the University of North Carolina for the U.S. Department
of Transportation found that the presence or absence of a sidewalk and
the speed limit are significant factors in the likelihood of a
Sidewalk presence had a risk ratio of 0.118,
which means that the likelihood of a crash on a road with a paved
sidewalk was 88.2 percent lower than one without a sidewalk. “This
should not be interpreted to mean that installing sidewalks would
necessarily reduce the likelihood of pedestrian/motor vehicle crashes
by 88.2 percent in all situations. However, the presence of a sidewalk
clearly has a strong beneficial effect of reducing the risk of a
‘walking along roadway’ pedestrian/motor vehicle crash.” The
study does not count crashes that happen when walking across a
roadway. The speed limit risk ratio was 1.116, which means that a
16.1-km/h (10-mi/h) increase in the limit yields a factor of (1.116)10
The presence or absence of sidewalks was one of three factors that
were found to encourage drivers to choose lower, safer speeds.
On the other hand, the implementation of schemes which involve the
removal of sidewalks, such as shared space schemes, are reported to
deliver a dramatic drop in crashes and congestion too, which indicates
that a number of other factors, such as the local speed environment,
also play an important role in whether sidewalks are necessarily the
best local solution for pedestrian safety.
In cold weather, black ice is a common problem with unsalted
sidewalks. The ice forms a thin transparent surface film which is
almost impossible to see, and so results in many slips by pedestrians.
Riding bicycles on sidewalks is discouraged since some research shows
it to be more dangerous than riding in the street. Some
jurisdictions prohibit sidewalk riding except for children. In
addition to the risk of cyclist/pedestrian collisions, cyclists face
increase risks from collisions with motor vehicles at street crossings
and driveways. Riding in the direction opposite to traffic in the
adjacent lane is especially risky.
Since residents of neighborhoods with sidewalks are more likely to
walk, they tend to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease,
obesity, and other health issues related to sedentary lifestyles.
Also, children who walk to school have been shown to have better
Native Americans busking at Orchard Road, Singapore
Some sidewalks may be used as social spaces with sidewalk cafes,
markets, or busking musicians, as well as for parking for a variety of
vehicles including cars, motorbikes and bicycles.
Contemporary sidewalks are most often made of concrete in the United
States and Canada, while tarmac, asphalt, brick, stone, slab and
(increasingly) rubber are more common in Europe. Different
materials are more or less friendly environmentally: pumice-based
trass, for example, when used as an extender is less energy-intensive
Portland cement concrete or petroleum-based materials such as
asphalt or tar-penetration macadam). Multi-use paths alongside roads
are sometimes made of materials that are softer than concrete, such as
In the 19th century and early 20th century, sidewalks of wood were
common in some North American locations. They may still be found at
historic beach locations and in conservation areas to protect the land
beneath and around, called boardwalks.
Brick sidewalks are found in some urban areas, usually for aesthetic
Brick sidewalk construction usually involves the usage of a
mechanical vibrator to lock the bricks in place after they have been
laid (and/or to prepare the soil before laying). Although this might
also be done by other tools (as regular hammers and heavy rolls), a
vibrator is often used to speed up the process.
Stone slabs called flagstones or flags are sometimes used where an
attractive appearance is required, as in historic town centers. In
other places, pre-cast concrete slabs (called paving slabs or, less
correctly, paving stones) are used. These may be colored or textured
to resemble stone.
Installation of crushed stone underlayment for drainage
Installation of paver blocks
Four types of brick-laying for sidewalks. Each is a type of
Freshly laid concrete sidewalk, with horizontal strain-relief grooves
United States and Canada, the most common type of sidewalk
consists of a poured concrete ribbon, examples of which from as early
as the 1860s can be found in good repair in San Francisco, and stamped
with the name of the contractor and date of installation.[citation
needed] When quantities of
Portland cement were first imported to the
United States in the 1880s, its principal use was in the construction
Today, most sidewalk ribbons are constructed with cross-lying
strain-relief grooves placed or sawn at regular intervals typically 5
feet (1.5 m) apart. This partitioning, an improvement over the
continuous slab, was patented in 1924 by Arthur Wesley Hall and
William Alexander McVay, who wished to minimize damage to the concrete
from the effects of tectonic and temperature fluctuations, both of
which can crack longer segments. The technique is not perfect, as
freeze-thaw cycles (in cold-weather regions) and tree root growth can
eventually result in damage which requires repair.
In highly variable climates which undergo multiple freeze-thaw cycles,
the concrete blocks will be separated by expansion joints to allow for
thermal expansion without breakage. The use of expansion joints in
sidewalks may not be necessary, as the concrete will shrink while
Tarmac and asphalt
In the United Kingdom,
France suburban sidewalks are
most commonly constructed of tarmac. In urban or inner-city areas
sidewalks are most commonly constructed of slabs, stone, or brick
depending upon the surrounding street architecture and furniture.
Sidewalk next to
Paulista Avenue tiled with Portuguese pavement, in
São Paulo, Brazil
Old sidewalk with granite curb in Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
Sidewalk in Wasaga Beach, Ontario,
Canada cleared after a snowfall
Sidewalk market, Speightstown, Barbados
Overspill parking on the sidewalk in Moscow, Russia
Sidewalk with trees in Oak Park, Illinois
Sidewalk with a planted rain garden in the "tree lawn" or "road verge"
Sidewalk blocked with motorcycles in Iran
Sidewalk in Nishapur, near Mausoleum of Omar Khayyam
Sidewalk in Benoni, South Africa
Pavement in Omagh, Northern Ireland, UK
Sidewalk closed" sign in Miami Beach urges crossing street to other
Sidewalk Protection Committee
Parking on pavements". Lewisham Council. Retrieved 2010-10-29. Why
is pavement parking a problem? Pavements are constructed and provided
for pedestrian use. Vehicles parked on pavements are: a hazard to
pedestrians causing an obstruction which may result in them having to
step off the pavement onto the highway thus putting themselves in
^ Cassidy, Frederic Gomes, and Joan Houston Hall (eds). (2002)
Dictionary of American Regional English. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
^ Allan A. Metcalf (2000). How We Talk: American Regional English
Today. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 90.
^ "Highways Act 1980 – Interpretation Section 329". “footway”
means a way comprised in a highway which also comprises a carriageway,
being a way over which the public have a right of way on foot
^ Shared-use paths, U.S. Department of Administration
^ "Walkway". Compact Oxford English Dictionary.
^ "Inclusive mobility". Department for Transport. Archived from the
original on 2010-11-22. Retrieved 2010-04-02. The distinction between
a footway and a footpath is that a footway is the part of a highway
adjacent to, or contiguous with, the roadway on which there is a
public right of way on foot. A footpath is not adjacent to a public
roadway. Where reference is made to one, it can generally be regarded
as applying to the other for design purposes CS1 maint: BOT:
original-url status unknown (link)
^ "Highways Act 1980 – Interpretation Section 329". "cycle track”
means a way constituting or comprised in a highway, being a way over
which the public have the following, but no other, rights of way, that
is to say, a right of way on pedal cycles [F3 (other than pedal cycles
which are motor vehicles within the meaning of F4 the
Road Traffic Act
1988 with or without a right of way on foot
^ Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Renia Ehrenfeucht (2009). Sidewalks:
Conflict and Negotiation Over Public Space. MIT Press.
^ "Georgian Colchester". British History. Retrieved 2010-04-05. Bad
paving and obstructions were frequently reported to the justices under
a paving Act of 1623, but the borough chamberlain, workhouse
corporation, and parish officers failed to discharge their
responsibilities and the small fines for neglect were ineffective.
Enforcement of the Act by the borough justices ceased when the charter
lapsed in 1741 and by 1750 the streets were so ruinous that a new Act
was obtained, which perpetuated the responsibility of justices to
enforce the regulations
^ Linda Clarke (2002). Building Capitalism (Routledge Revivals):
Historical Change and the Labour Process in the Production of Built
Environment. Routledge. p. 115.
^ "city street scene manual" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF)
on 2013-12-15. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
^ Town of Minden v. Stewart et al. Southern Reporter, Vol. 77.
November 26, 1917. pp. 118–121. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
^ "Research Note: An Assessment of Urban Form and
Transit Improvements as an Integrated GHG Reduction Strategy" (PDF).
Washington State Department of Transportation. April 2011.
^ Gan, Albert; Joan Shen; Adriana Rodriquez (2005). "Update of Florida
Crash Reduction Factors and Countermeasures to Improve the Development
of District Safety Improvement Projects" (PDF). State of Florida DOT.
BD015-04. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
^ McMahon, Patrick J.; Charles V. Zegeer; Chandler Duncan; Richard L.
Knoblauch; J. Richard Stewart; Asad J. Khattak (2002). "AN ANALYSIS OF
FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO "WALKING ALONG ROADWAY" CRASHES, RESEARCH
STUDY AND GUIDELINES FOR SIDEWALKS AND WALKWAYS" (PDF). Federal
Highway Administration. FHWA-RD-01-101. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
^ John N. Ivan, Norman W. Garrick and Gilbert Hanson (November 2009).
DESIGNING ROADS THAT GUIDE DRIVERS TO CHOOSE SAFER SPEEDS. Connecticut
^ "Do you take unnecessary risks behind the wheel?". Which?.
2011-01-05. Retrieved 2011-01-27. The town of Drachten removed most of
its street furniture, signs and markings in 2003 and recorded a
dramatic fall in accidents and traffic congestion as a result
^ Lisa Aultman-Hall and Michael F. Adams, Jr. (1998). "Sidewalk
Bicycling Safety Issues". Transportation Research Record (1636).
^ "Bicycle sidepaths: Crash risks and liability exposure: Evidence
from the research literature". 8 December 2010. Retrieved
^ "Crimes of the Heart". The Daily Beast. Retrieved February 6,
^ "The Link Between Kids Who Walk or Bike to School and
Concentration". The Atlantic Cities. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
^ Hampson, Rick (2006-09-20). "Sidewalks bounce back". USA
^ Robert W. Lesley. "What Cement Users Owe To The Public". The Cement
age: a magazine devoted to the uses of cement. 2 (9): 652.
^ Mario Theriault, Great Maritime Inventions – 1833–1950, Goose
Lane Editions, 2001, p. 73
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sidewalks.
Los Alamos Walkability Advocacy Group
PEDS a member-based advocacy group dedicated to making metro Atlanta
safe and accessible for all pedestrians.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), a U.S.A.-based
clearinghouse for information for pedestrians (including transit
users) and bicyclists.
Streets and roadways
Types of road
Freeway / Motorway
Dual carriageway / Divided highway / Expressway
Highway systems by country
Hierarchy of roads
Single-point urban (SPUI)
Diamond grinding of pavement
Full depth recycling
Dead Man's Curve
Space and time allocation
Barrier transfer machine
Contraflow lane reversal
High-occupancy toll lane
High-occupancy vehicle lane
Median / Central reservation
Runaway truck ramp
Sidewalk / Pavement
Street running railway
Traffic signal preemption
Wide outside lane
Cat's eye (road)
Concrete step barrier
Raised pavement marker
Road surface marking
Overpass / Flyover
Underpass / Tunnel
Glossary of road transport terms
Road types by features