Important Department of Transportation (DOT) Regulations for Public Sidewalks

Important Department of Transportation (DOT) Regulations for Public Sidewalks

Public walkways and sidewalks are governed by strict Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. These regulations include things like maintaining barriers between traffic, seating areas, and walkways to keep the public safe.

When you work with the pros at Kleenco Construction, you can rest assured that all DOT regulations are adhered. Here’s an overview of some important elements included in DOT regulations for public sidewalks. 

Urban Sidewalk Specifications

According to DOT regulations, all public urban sidewalks must include:

-Adequate space to walk in either direction.

-Some type of buffer that separates pedestrian foot traffic from vehicle traffic lanes.

-A curb that separates the roadway from the sidewalk.

-Minimum sidewalk width regulations, exact specifications vary based upon location and the amount of traffic

-A buffer that separates the sidewalk from private properties

-Flat corners

-Ramps at corners

-Good visibility

-A clear path around any sidewalk furniture, statues, or other barriers.

-Appropriate space in corners for traffic overflow, and so that pedestrians can safely wait at cross intersections and walk in an orderly manner without spilling into auto traffic lanes.

DOT Regulations for Sidewalk Width—How Wide Does Your Sidewalk Need to Be?

All US sidewalks set back from the curb must measure at least 5-feet wide. If they start at the curb face, they must measure at least 6-feet wide. These minimums are in place to ensure people with disabilities have enough room to use sidewalks. Also, 5-feet represents the minimum space necessary for two people to comfortably walk side-by-side.

Certain shopping districts and parks maintain larger 8-foot wide minimums for sidewalks due to increased pedestrian traffic.

Sidewalks that measure just 4-feet in width do not offer enough space to comfortably navigate, even children complain this is not enough space to walk beside their friends. As a result, people, including children, end up walking in the roadway, presenting a safety hazard that can easily be avoided with proper sidewalk widths.

Minimums are not always sufficient. More “desirable” sidewalk widths measure closer to 12, 20, or even up to 40-feet in width. Sidewalks this wide are in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic. For example, Pennsylvania Avenue, located in Washington, DC, is engineered with 30-foot sidewalk areas to accommodate regular tour bus operations.

Sidewalks that are too large can be just as disadvantageous as sidewalks that are too small for an area. For the best results, it is crucial that regular traffic dictates appropriate sidewalk width. It’s important to calculate things like the need for outdoor seating at a restaurant, room for kiosks, bus stops, or local gathering spots. One of the best places to add extra gathering space is at corners or mid-block bulb-outs.

Sidewalk Buffers: Why You Need Them & How to Create Them

Sidewalks must be large enough for pedestrians to safely and comfortably navigate without having to walk in the road. Additionally, there must be border areas and buffers in place to protect foot traffic from passing vehicles. The standard minimum width for nature buffs is between 5 and 7-feet.

The goal of a public sidewalk buffer is to:

-Protect pedestrians from out-of-control vehicles by providing a buffer between them and vehicles on the roadways.

-Enhance vision distances at driveways

-Provide enough space for trees and other living landscaping elements to thrive.

Buffers may include:

-Trees, planters

-Paver stones that lead to underground utilities

-Parking meters



-Parking meters

-Fire hydrants

Bike lanes offer a good way to create a buffer against traffic. Adding a 5-foot bike lane provides greater comfort and safety to pedestrians.

On-street parking provides a secondary barrier against out of control cars, plus it has been proven to reduce the speeds of passing motorists. Thus, increasing pedestrian and driver safety.

Plant-based buffers require an additional 1 to 3-foot wide space. Without this buffer, vegetation tends grow onto the sidewalk and take up room people need to walk.

Do DOT Regulations for Sidewalks Differ in Non-Urban Areas?

Sidewalk specifications may differ in non-urban areas where traffic is less dense. Rights-of-way are still mandated since there is always the potential for population growth. Security lights are very important in less populated areas for safety reasons and peace of mind. Corners remain an important area where you can provide additional space for gathering, add benches, bike racks, and so forth.

The Importance of Properly Designed Sidewalks

Sidewalks should be on both sides of urban streets and most local roadways. While local codes vary, AASHTO, along with other national publications, makes it very clear that separating pedestrians from vehicle traffic is crucial to the overall success, safety, and function of roadway design. 

Sidewalks are crucial to keeping people safe and providing a comfortable space to walk. Adequate sidewalks are also linked with increased property values. Improperly designed sidewalks can end in disaster or fines for not following building codes and regulations.

No need to stress it, simply contact Kleenco Construction! We get it right every single time. Contact us today to learn more and to receive a quote.