Public Realm Study

Last updated Jul. 30, 2015 - 11:29 am
  • *20 Foot Sidewalk20 Foot Sidewalk
  • *Busy Urban Sidewalk BlountBusy Urban Sidewalk Blount

Sidewalks are vital to the health of the city. They provide a sustainable and equitable transportation mode and allow for a unique experience of place. They also promote health at a time when Americans are lacking in daily exercise. The City of Raleigh also understands the value of urban sidewalks is about more than just transportation- they are used for cafes, signage, bus stops and bike racks, and other amenities.

In 2010, the City of Raleigh commissioned a study of its urban sidewalks to determine where sidewalks are too narrow and how to alleviate the pedestrian traffic congestion while preserving the sense of place that makes Raleigh unique. The four central findings of the study are summarized below and were incorporated in the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). This study continues to be relevant as the City reviews sidewalks as part of new development and considers areas to be included in Capital Improvement Program (CIP) projects. The study also provides a methodology to help other areas in Raleigh that are looking to develop a more urban network.

  • The key study findings are: The current required pedestrian clearance of five feet is insufficient in an urban setting because of pedestrian traffic volume. It is recommended that the clearance requirement be increased to eight feet.
  • New sidewalk corridors should be fourteen feet in most places downtown and the sidewalks in areas with the highest intensity of urban development (with sidewalk seating, nightclubs, and retail) should be twenty feet wide.
  • Most urban areas should have sidewalk treatments with grated street trees to allow for both the shade and street buffer trees provide, while still allowing space for amenities and pedestrian movement in crowded conditions. In a few places open tree pits, planted verges, or pavement to the back of curb would be appropriate to preserve the character of the place.
  • These suggestions can be implemented through redevelopment, or through a combination of city-initiated sidewalk improvements/widening and restrictions on encroachments such as outdoor dining.

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