How wide should a Safe Routes to School sidewalk be to meet ADA specifications?

The preferred minimum sidewalk width recommended for safe routes to schools is five to six feet. Walking can be a social activity and to provide opportunities to be active, facilities are needed to accommodate social walking. The six-foot width allows for two people to walk comfortably side-by-side and provides sufficient space for pedestrians crossing in the opposite direction. Sidewalks with a width of eight to ten feet or more should be built where there is no sidewalk buffer along an arterial street and along roads adjacent to school grounds where large numbers of walkers are expected.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 mandates the establishment of minimum walkway clearance widths and there are variety of organizations that offer sidewalk width recommendations. Updated and revised in 2004, the ADA and the Architectural Barriers Act (ADA-ABA) state that walking surfaces should have a clear width minimum of 36 inches.This clear width minimum is the minimum width for passage and not a sidewalk width recommendation. The clear width is the width of section of the walkway that is completely free of obstacles, vertical obstructions and protruding objects. The 36 inch width is the minimum width required to provide sufficient space for a person who uses mobility aids to travel within the restricted space. However, restricting the pedestrian zone to 36 inches prevents passing and does not allow for two-way travel. The ADA-ABA guidelines state that where sidewalks are less than five feet in width, passing spaces sufficiently wide enough for wheelchair users to pass one another, or to turn around, shall be provided at intervals of 200 feet. For more details visit ADA-ABA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities and the Accessible Rights-of-Way: A Design Guide.

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