U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Research into the state of the practice of pedestrian facility maintenance consisted of a review of the literature and select municipal programs, as well as discussions with over 40 agencies. This research has revealed routine and successful policies, programs and practices, as well as common challenges and innovative solutions.
A literature review was conducted by searching the Transport Research International Documentation (TRID) database using the following keywords: sidewalk tripping hazards; sidewalk maintenance; snow, ice, debris, or vegetation on sidewalks and crosswalks; crosswalk markings and pedestrian signals; following up with agencies that are known by the Research Team to be proactive in the planning, design and maintenance of pedestrian facilities, and tracking down additional resources cited in primary references. The literature search primarily focused on relevant publications and studies published after 2000, although several key resources prepared before that timeframe have been included.
The literature review is organized into four categories:
Short summaries are provided for the resources listed below. Where summaries were already available through abstracts written by resource authors, those summaries were included in their original form or were adapted to highlight the most applicable aspects of the resource. The sources below are numbered sequentially, however the order shown below should not be taken as an indication of importance of the resource. A discussion of "best available resources" follows the listing of resources.
This section provides short summaries of the most applicable guidance and policy documents that have been produced by federal agencies or national organizations. Several documents listed below are currently under revision and new editions are likely to be published in the coming years. Documents are listed in alphabetical order.
1) American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities, 1st Edition, 2004.
The purpose of this guide is to provide guidance on the planning, design and operation of pedestrian facilities along streets and highways. Specifically, the guide focuses on identifying effective measures for accommodating pedestrians on public rights-of-way. Appropriate methods for accommodating pedestrians, which vary among roadway and facility types, are described in this guide. The primary audiences for this manual are planners, roadway designers and transportation engineers, whether at the state or local level, the majority of whom make decisions on a daily basis that affect pedestrians. This guide has a very brief section on the importance of maintaining sidewalks.
2) American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Update of the Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities, 1st Edition, 2010.
This report acts as the scoping document for the next update of the AASHTO Pedestrian Guide being prepared in 2012 and 2013. The authors call for the current section on pedestrian facility maintenance to be expanded to include a discussion of all pedestrian facilities, including sidewalks, surface repairs, sweeping, snow removal, curb ramps, signs and markings, signals, drainage and landscaping. For each of these activities, there should be guidance on how to approach routine, annual and major maintenance. It goes on to recommend there be guidance on what triggers maintenance (e.g. tripping hazards, smoothness, cross slope changes, etc.), how to set priorities for addressing maintenance issues and the role that ADA compliance plays in this process.
3) C. Quiroga and S. Turner.Asset Management Approaches to ADA Compliance, National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 20-07, Task 249, September, 2008
The purpose Asset Management Approaches to ADA Compliance, was to gather information and develop a synthesis of practices, including best practices, on the various approaches transportation agencies use to address ADA compliance issues. The synthesis covered three main topics: asset data inventory, asset condition assessment, and programming of asset improvements. To make the project manageable, the focus was on pedestrian infrastructure on the public right-of-way, including elements such as sidewalks, curb ramps, pedestrian crossings, and obstructions. The analysis did not include buildings, facilities, or transit infrastructure. The synthesis also included the compilation of an extensive listing of asset inventory and condition data elements. The listing is intended as a preliminary menu that agencies could use as a foundation for the development of inventory programs that meet individual agency needs.
4) Federal Highway Administration, Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access – Part 1 of 2, Review of Existing Guidelines and Practices, 1999.
Chapter 4 includes a general discussion about sidewalk maintenance and a list of common sidewalk maintenance problems. Chapter 5 includes a general discussion about trail maintenance and a list of common trail maintenance problems. This publication also provides a thorough discussion on disability rights legislation and accessibility guidelines and standards in the United States.
5) Federal Highway Administration, Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access–Part 2, Best Practices Guide, September 2001.
All facilities, including sidewalks, require regular maintenance to reduce the damage caused over time by the effects of weather and use. However, many maintenance issues can be reduced if properly addressed in the planning and designing phases before construction even begins. Proper maintenance is essential to promote user safety, to ensure ease of access, and sidewalk maintenance and construction site safety to encourage the use of a designated route. The implementing regulations under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act require all features and equipment that are required to be accessible to be maintained in operable working condition for use by individuals with disabilities (U.S. Department of Justice, 1991a). Sections of Chapter 10, including 10.1 Facility Maintenance, 10.1.1 Assessment Techniques, 10.1.2 Sidewalk Maintenance Problems, 10.1.3 Maintenance Responsibilities, 10.2 Information Maintenance, 10.3 Citizen Reporting, provide fairly general discussion on maintenance issues. Section 10.4 Construction Safety, offers a discussion on approaches to maintaining safety for all users around road and sidewalk construction sites. Chapter 18 addresses trail maintenance.
6) Federal Highway Administration, Planning Design and Maintenance of Pedestrian Facilities, 1989.
This handbook consolidates the current state-of-the-art (in the late 1980's) pertaining to pedestrian facilities (including planning, design and maintenance). It is designed to provide up-to-date information on pedestrian facilities in one document to serve the needs of planners and engineers in the majority of cases. Includes chapter on pedestrian facility maintenance and a table that lists pedestrian maintenance concerns and related maintenance activities, but fairly general.
7) United States Department of Transportation Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations, 2010.
This policy statement reflects U.S. DOT's support for the development of fully integrated active transportation networks. The statement specifically addresses removing snow from sidewalks and shared-use paths: Current maintenance provisions require pedestrian facilities built with Federal funds to be maintained in the same manner as other roadway assets. State agencies have generally established levels of service on various routes especially as related to snow and ice events.
8) Federation of Canadian Municipalities and National Research Council. Sidewalk Design, Construction, and Maintenance: A Best Practice by the National Guide to Sustainable Municipal Infrastructure, 2004.
Based on Canadian experience and research, the reports identify the best practices to support sustainable municipal infrastructure decisions and actions for sidewalk design, construction and maintenance. The section on maintenance investigates "failure mechanisms" for sidewalks and points to four deformation problems. Four remedial techniques are provided to address sidewalks that have encountered structural problems.
9) L. Sandt, R. Schneider, D. Nabors, L. Thomas, C. Mitchell, and R.J. Eldridge. A Resident's Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA-SA-07-016), February 2008.
A Resident's Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities is designed for local citizens and organizations that would like to learn more about how to improve pedestrian safety in their communities. It provides basic information about the transportation planning process and how to approach local agencies about pedestrian safety issues. It provides several community success stories that highlight successful community-oriented pedestrian safety projects and programs.
The Guide also contains several user-friendly resources, including fact sheets, worksheets and sample materials. These materials can be adapted to meet the needs of a particular community or distributed to others working to improve pedestrian safety. The Guide provides a thorough introduction to pedestrian safety and includes many references to other resources and materials for those interested in more in-depth information.
10.) Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee. Special Report: Accessible Public Rights-of-Way, Planning and Designing for Alterations. Washington, D.C.: 2007.
Discusses alteration projects in the public right-of-way and the challenges and approaches to meeting new construction criteria to the maximum extent feasible as established by ADA.
This section provides short summaries of applicable guidance and policy documents developed by state transportation agencies. There are many documents developed by State DOTs that mention pedestrian facility maintenance, however the resources listed below are what emerged through a web search and from the Research Team's knowledge of what state agencies are doing. Most of these documents address pedestrian facility maintenance at a relatively high level. Documents are listed in alphabetical order.
1. California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities in California: A Technical Reference and Technology Transfer Synthesis for Caltrans Planners and Engineers, July 2005.
This guide synthesizes information on policies, laws, programs, the planning and design process, guidelines and best practices. The Technical Reference Section includes concept sheets on pedestrian facilities and traffic calming measures. The concept sheets include descriptive text, references, and many useful pictures, graphics, and tables. Major issues addressed include: analytical tools, crossings, personal mobility devices, signals, sidewalks, work zones and traffic calming. Maintenance-related content includes sidewalk assessment techniques, general maintenance, root protection and sidewalk surface materials.
2) Florida Department Of Transportation Maintenance Rating Program Handbook, Data Collection For Maintenance Rating Program (2013)
Florida DOT Office of Maintenance has one of the most detailed inspection standards for a state Department of Transportation identified in this report. The manual is intended for field inspection and covers all facets of maintenance. For sidewalks, 99.5% of a sidewalk must be free of vertical misalignments greater than ¼ inch, horizontal cracks greater than ¾ inch, or spalled areas greater than ½ inch in depth, and no visible hazards. The manual has detailed instructions and photos of how measurements should be made and computed.
3) Maryland State Highway Administration, Accessibility Policy & Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities along State Highways, December 2005.
This design guide was developed to assist transportation engineers in designing public sidewalks and crossings to provide accessible routes, defined as continuous routes that are unobstructed and ADA compatible throughout. Pertinent information related to maintenance includes maintenance of pedestrian access during construction, including sidewalk repair/replacement.
4) Minnesota Department of Transportation, Winter Parking Lot and Sidewalk Maintenance Manual, June 2006. (revised June 2008).
The purpose of this manual is to deliver practical advice to those who manage parking lots and sidewalks. This manual outlines how jurisdictions can make proactive, cost-effective choices in winter parking lot and sidewalk management. It also focuses on how to make operations more efficient while reducing environmental impacts. A blanket approach will not work for the range of conditions Minnesota experiences; different strategies are needed for different regions and different conditions. This manual encourages the reader to continue to test, document and refine the practices from this manual.
5) New Jersey Department of Transportation and Voorhees Transportation Center, Constructing, Maintaining and Financing Sidewalks in New Jersey, 2006.
This research includes how sidewalks in New Jersey are constructed, maintained, reconstructed and financed. The report provides a discussion related to snow and ice removal and the role of Special Improvement Districts in maintaining sidewalks. It also includes a very brief scan on practices nationally on sidewalk maintenance. Much of the focus is on liability.
6) New York Department of Transportation, Highway Design Manual, March 2006.
Chapter 18 of the Highway Design Manual provides extensive and detailed guidelines for pedestrian facility design. These guidelines are largely conveyed through narrative; however, the chapter also includes a number of useful tables, graphs and figures. Issues addressed include: sidewalks crossings, elevation changes, bus stops and transit stations; special situations including main streets, Central Business Districts, school walking zones and mass evacuations; and pedestrian facility construction and maintenance. Compliance with ADAAG requirements is emphasized throughout.
7) Vermont Agency of Transportation, Vermont Pedestrian and Bicycle Facility Planning and Design Manual, December 2002.
The Vermont Pedestrian and Bicycle Facility Planning and Design Manual establishes standards for the development, design, construction and maintenance of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The manual includes chapters addressing pedestrian facilities (sidewalks, walkways, street corners, intersections and street and driveway crossings), traffic calming measures, traffic control devices and landscaping. Chapter 10 addresses maintenance at a general level, including special considerations for sidewalks and shared use paths.
8) Vermont Agency of Transportation, Report on Shared-Use Path and Sidewalk Unit Costs, November 2010.
http://www.aot.state.vt.us/progdev/sections/LTF%20Info/DocumentsLTFPages/ BikePedReport on Shared Use Path and Sidewalk Unit Costs_2010_FINAL813.pdf
This report is intended to provide basic unit cost (per foot) information for bicycle or pedestrian facilities and to provide some basic bid costs for items commonly included on projects that provide improved facilities for bicycling or walking. The report builds on the results of a previous Cost Report completed in 2006. The previous report focused on updating cost estimates to be more reflective of typical bid item quantities and total project costs experienced on sidewalk and shared use path projects. This report includes those subjects but also provides more detailed information on project engineering costs, as well as new research regarding on-road bicycle lane costs.
9) Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Pedestrian Best Practices Guide, Chapter 6, 2011. (draft)
Chapter 6 of this comprehensive state pedestrian best practices guide addresses the importance of maintaining pedestrian facilities, the types of pedestrian facilities that need to maintained, components of sound winter and year-round maintenance programs, short-term fixes for sidewalks, sidewalk replacement, sidewalk inspection and citizen involvement. Although this chapter is still in draft status, it is one of the better guidance pieces on pedestrian facility maintenance developed by a state department of transportation.
The resources in this section were primarily identified through discussions with transportation agencies and include a wide range of document types including policies, ordinances, regulations, plans and design guides. There are likely to be thousands of similar documents guiding the actions of municipalities in the United States. The following should be viewed as a cross-section of what exists nationally. Interestingly, many smaller communities provided some of the most helpful resources directed at property owners. Documents are listed in alphabetical order.
1. City of Charlotte, North Carolina, Sidewalk Program (online resource).
Charlotte's sidewalk program webpage provides clear information about the city's sidewalk program and how it is supported by the city's Transportation Action Plan, current sidewalk projects, contacts for individuals managing sidewalk projects, and the process for requesting a new sidewalk or sidewalk repair. A downloadable "sidewalk nomination" form is available for residents to request sidewalks on neighborhood streets. The form requires the signatures of 25% of property owners or tenants on both sides of the street in order for the city to place the sidewalk on its ranking list. Once the sidewalk nears the top of the Sidewalk Ranking List, a public meeting is held for design input, and then 60% of property owners on both sides of the street are required to sign a petition that puts the sidewalk on the Sidewalk Priority List.
2) City of Clive, Iowa, Sidewalk Inspection and Repair Policy.
This document outlines the policies and procedures for sidewalk repair/replacement that are intended to implement city ordinances and the Code of Iowa (Section 364.12 (2d & e), which places the responsibility for the maintenance and repair of public sidewalks on the abutting property owner. The policy document clearly outlines what constitutes a sidewalk deficiency and the procedure the city follows for inspecting sidewalks, identifying deficiencies and enforcing repairs. It also includes a "how-to" guide that walks a property owner through all the steps of sidewalk repair including securing a permit, hiring a contractor, sidewalk specifications and a standard form that residents are to use for notifying the city about who is to perform the repair work and the scope of work.
3) City of Corvallis, Oregon, Sidewalk Safety Program (online resource).
The program page has a number of resources that provide guidance and city procedures pertaining to sidewalk construction and maintenance. The Guidelines for Public Sidewalk and Driveway Repairs document outlines conditions requiring repair or construction. It also provides alternative approaches that may be used to repair sidewalks affected by adjacent tree roots. The Sidewalk Marking Code and Conditions Requiring Grind or Replacement is a stand-alone document that provides criteria and detailed specifications for sidewalk grinding and replacement. The program page also provides a link to the city's municipal code section pertaining to sidewalk improvements. Chapter 2.15 of the city's code very clearly establishes property owners' duties for maintaining sidewalks, procedure for noticing the owner when repairs are required, and penalties for not fulfilling the city's requirements. If repair work is done by the city, the city will provide the owner a report containing an itemized statement of costs, including actual administrative costs. If the owner neglects to pay repair costs the city may charge 10% interest beginning 30 days from service of notice and ultimately put a lien on the property.
4) City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii, Concrete Sidewalk Maintenance Program.
This document discusses responsibility for sidewalk maintenance (abutting property owner unless damage is due to city action or street tree), lists sidewalk maintenance criteria, describes the city/county's proactive and reactive inspection program and establishes levels of priority for scheduling of repairs. One unique component of the sidewalk maintenance program is the use of volunteers for repair work and third-party verification of short-term repairs. Appendices include photographs depicting trip hazard examples and volunteer agreement.
5) City of Missoula, Montana, Public Works Department Master Sidewalk Plan.
The Master Sidewalk Plan takes a systematic approach to developing and maintaining a sidewalk network. It defines a system for identifying sidewalk projects, which includes establishing priority areas, discusses engineering and construction considerations and outlines the steps for implementation. Appendix A provides excerpts from the city's municipal code pertaining to sidewalk installation and maintenance, which includes snow and ice removal. Appendix C includes policies and design criteria, including criteria for hazardous sidewalks, replacement/repair of sidewalks and determining the scope of sidewalk repair work. Appendix D relates the city's standards for sidewalk construction and maintenance to ADA requirements.
6) City of Plattsburg, New York, Article V, Removal of Snow and Ice on Public Sidewalks.
This municipal code clearly establishes the duty of the abutting property owner to clear ice and snow from sidewalks and exceptions to this duty. Despite these exceptions to liability for snow removal costs, the owner or occupant is not relieved from liability for injuries to pedestrians using such a sidewalk. Perhaps the strongest component of the city's ordinance are sections 233 – 35 and 233 – 36, which specify the noticing procedure and how the city may collect snow removal costs if the owner or occupant does not remove snow and ice within the established timeframe.
7) City of Seattle, Washington, Client Assistance Memo 2208 – Sidewalk Repair and Maintenance.
This memo is intended to assist applicants in getting a permit for sidewalk maintenance and repair. It clearly outlines what a property owner's responsibility for streets and sidewalks (referencing the Seattle Municipal Code), when a sidewalk needs to be repaired (including specific criteria), the steps for obtaining a permit, how to hire a concrete contractor, and how to manage street trees during sidewalk repair, including contact information for the city arborist. Attachment 1 provides descriptions and photographs that illustrate sidewalk repair criteria.
8) Snow Removal Policy Toolkit, Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Boston Metro Area).
The Toolkit is an excellent resource intended to better inform communities about snow removal policies and procedures and to provide them with tools to increase compliance and safety. A major impetus for development of the toolkit was a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision, Papadopoulos v. Target, which exposed the liability of property owners that do not clear their sidewalks of snow and ice and established that property owners must use reasonable care to maintain property in reasonably safe condition. MAPC's Snow Removal Policy Toolkit provides cities and towns with tools to increase snow removal compliance and safety. The toolkit includes sidewalk snow clearance policies and maps, policies and ordinances addressing timeframes and fees for snow removal, and sample snow removal policy brochures from municipalities.
9) Village of Grand Rapids, Ohio, Sidewalk Repair Policy Page.
This resource defines the types of typical sidewalk deficiencies with illustrations and provides a clear list of criteria for when sidewalk blocks (the area between contraction joints) should be repaired or replaced. The document also provides guidance on vegetation trimming and addressing slip hazards.
The following resources have been developed by various non-governmental organizations, including non-profit institutes and academic researchers. Resources are listed alphabetically.
1. Costello, L.R. and K.S. Jones, 2003. Reducing Infrastructure Damage by Tree Roots: A Compendium of Strategies.
This book offers information regarding strategies to reduce potential infrastructure damage from trees, including choosing the appropriate tree species, channeling root growth and using structural soils.
2) Developing an Effective Sidewalk Program (course L155), University of Wisconsin – Madison Department of Engineering Professional Development, 2000 to 2011.
Of the 10 chapters of this two-day course, three directly address sidewalk maintenance while others address new sidewalk construction. One chapter is devoted entirely to improving the survivability of trees next to sidewalks and curbs and includes dozens of instructions and photographs.
3) Doing the Best with What You Have, League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, 2010.
This succinct report calls on communities to adopt a policy for street and sidewalk maintenance, inspection, and repair. It establishes the legal underpinnings for maintaining municipal facilities and gives practical guidance on how communities can limit their liability and create better-maintained facilities by following simple and consistent steps. The report places sidewalks and curb ramps in the same category as streets in terms of importance of maintenance and calls for action on part of communities to put in place a reporting protocol and to be responsive to complaints.
4) Evans-Cowley, Jennifer. Sidewalk Planning and Policies in Small Cities, Journal of Urban Planning, 2006.
This journal article discusses the overall problems associated with pedestrian mobility, and specifically, sidewalk accessibility. Lack of sidewalk maintenance is cited and discussed as one of the major factors affecting accessibility. The article focuses on the need for conducting more pedestrian planning.
5) Extending Beyond the Curb: Winter Maintenance Liability, Public Works Journal Corporation, August, 2001.
Pedestrians cannot be left out of the winter maintenance program. Even in cities that have delegated sidewalk maintenance to homeowners, liability can fall on the city in the event of accidents. The article describes some approaches to oversight and enforcement of clearing ordinances in Canadian communities.
6) Hayward, Gordon. Performance-based Sidewalk Contracts for Snow and Ice Control, Journal of Public Works & Infrastructure, November, 2011.
This paper allows the reader to draw conclusions regarding the potential advantages of providing winter snow and ice maintenance to municipal sidewalks using a performance-based contract. Performance-based contracts essentially have the contractor supply a set price for a route based on certain performance standards, regardless of how often it snows. The paper outlines the basis of the contracts and draws comparisons with other contracting methods. It also identifies some of the pitfalls experienced by Halifax Regional Municipality in developing the contracts including managing poor performance, setting expectations for residents and counselors, supervisor training, unclear contract language, record keeping, seasonal evaluations and post-winter follow-up on damages.
7) Keep it Clear: Recommendations for Sidewalk Snow and Ice Removal in Massachusetts, WalkBoston.
WalkBoston is non-profit membership organization dedicated to improving walking conditions and encouraging walking in Massachusetts cities and towns. Keep it Clear: Recommendations for Sidewalk Snow and Ice Removal in Massachusetts presents seven basic recommendations to improve snow and ice clearance. The recommendations are: 1) Create a norm of snow and ice clearance through social awareness campaigns that make unclear sidewalks and curb ramps as unacceptable as litter; 2) Identify a municipal point person for snow removal so that reporting an unclear sidewalk or getting assistance is provided through one well-advertised and well-staffed phone number; 3) Set priorities for sidewalk snow clearance that identify the most critical sidewalks to ensure that enforcement and public snow clearance are focused on the most important locations; 4) Improve monitoring and enforcement by giving ticketing authority to municipal workers who are already outdoors and can therefore see the problems in person (and remember that the goal is to clear sidewalks, not to raise money); 5) Design sidewalks for easier snow removal with simple design interventions, especially at common trouble spots such as curb ramps, 6) Train municipal and private snow plowing personnel so that plow drivers are sensitive to the needs of pedestrians and are proficient in techniques that aid clearance of sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks and pedestrian crossing islands; 7) Create sensible state policies through appropriate legislation to eliminate the liability property owners face for clearing sidewalks and allow municipalities to levy more reasonable fines against those who fail to clear.
8) O'Donnell, Edward, Andrew Knab, Lorene Athey. Sidewalks and Shared-use Paths: Safety, Security and Maintenance, Summary Report, Institute of Public Administration, University of Delaware, September 2007.
Part 3 of this report addresses maintenance issues for sidewalks and shared-use paths, including management and responsibility, specific maintenance tasks and snow removal. The report provides background information on why maintenance is important and necessary. Part 4 of the report provides brief case studies of plans and policies, problem reporting and inspections from around the country.
9) PEDS – PEDS is a nonprofit, member-based advocacy organization dedicated to making metro Atlanta safe and accessible for all pedestrians.
The Pedestrian Hazard Reporting form is an online tool that allows users to report broken sidewalks, dead walk signals, faded crosswalks and other pedestrian hazards in the greater Atlanta area. The tool allows registered users to report problems, view past reports and view neighborhood reports. The organization's website provides excerpts from (and links to) the City of Atlanta's ordinances pertaining to sidewalk repair and replacement, as well as advocacy tools such as an online petition and city council contact information.
1.) Sidewalk Inspection and Maintenance Policies –They Are All They're Cracked Up to Be, League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, 2010.
This report calls on communities to adopt a set of sidewalk inspection and maintenance policies. It adroitly expels the five major myths often associated with the maintenance and inspection of sidewalks. The report conveys the purpose of policies such as providing guidelines to city employees, conveying information to city residents and preventing and/or minimizing lawsuits and exposure. It clearly communicates the five critical components of a sidewalk inspection and maintenance program and includes a model policy.
1.) Sirota, Luanne Dawn. A Risk-Based Decision Policy to Aid the Prioritization of Unsafe Sidewalk Locations for Maintenance and Rehabilitation, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Saskatchewan, March 2008.
This research proposes a decision model that prioritizes a given list of existing unsafe sidewalk locations needing maintenance or rehabilitation using a direct measure of pedestrian safety, namely, quality-adjusted life years lost per year. A decision model was developed for prioritizing a given list of unsafe sidewalk locations, aiding maintenance and rehabilitation decisions by providing the associated risk to pedestrian safety. The model used data mostly from high quality sources that had already been collected and validated. Probabilities and estimations were used to produce value-added decision policy.
1.) Williams, Joel et al. Development and Use of a Tool for Assessing Sidewalk Maintenance as an Environmental Support of Physical Activity, Health Promotion and Practice, Jan. 2005, pp. 81-88.
The importance of regular physical activity is well documented, yet according to epidemiological surveillance data, physical inactivity among all age groups persists. Past attempts to promote physical activity focused on individual-level changes; current approaches focus on environmental changes that will provide opportunities for whole communities to be active. The current ecological focus has led to an increase in funding and research regarding environmental supports of physical activity. As this is a new area of research, much work needs to be done to improve the ability to assess environmental features that support physical activity. This article describes a partnership between researchers and community members to develop and test an objective tool to measure sidewalk maintenance. Community members used data collected with the tool to increase awareness about sidewalk maintenance issues among local policy makers. Collaboration between researchers and community partners was critical for the success of this study.
1.) Winter Maintenance of Pedestrian Facilities in Delaware: Guide for Local Governments, Institute for Public Administration, University of Delaware, February 2012.
Funded by the Delaware Department of Transportation, this guide provides a comprehensive overview of the legal framework that requires proactive winter maintenance of pedestrian facilities, including ADA. It also provides a thorough summary of the policies, programs and plans of local governments in the state of Delaware, as well as best practices from around North America. The guide concludes with a list of recommendations for Delaware local governments addressing emergency operation plans, winter maintenance management plans, municipal procedures, responsibilities, ordinances and regulations, communications, and innovative practices.
Included below is a discussion of the best available resources identified by the Research Team, organized by topic area for which there are at least two useful resources worth noting. At the end of this section is a discussion about gaps in existing guidance. A gap indicates that there is either very little information about the topic, or the information that is available provides little guidance or is not widely transferrable.
While numerous existing resources discuss common approaches to establishing responsibility (most commonly delegated to the adjacent property owner) for sidewalk maintenance, few provide guidance on the specific policy and programmatic steps agencies should take to minimize their liability. Several notable exceptions are discussed below.
The Institute of Public Administration at the University of Delaware's Sidewalks and Shared-use Paths: Safety, Security, and Maintenance, Summary Report provides good background information on why agencies should be concerned about having clear and proactive maintenance policies and practices from an ADA and liability perspective. The Report includes an extensive discussion on best approaches to shared-use path management and responsibility, as well as specific management tasks for minimizing risk and liability.
The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust has published two guidance documents that address maintenance responsibility and liability. Sidewalk Inspection and Maintenance Policies –They Are All They're Cracked Up to Be, addresses five common misconceptions and myths about sidewalk inspection and maintenance policies and cites relevant case law. The paper provides specific guidance on developing a maintenance policy that includes identification of defective conditions, development of an inspection procedure and schedule, prioritization of replacement and repair, development of cost recovery mechanisms, and response to resident complaints and concerns. Just as important as having a policy, is documenting that policy to demonstrate the city is exercising reasonable care in inspecting and maintaining sidewalks. The paper also discusses the importance of fixing defects even if they may be associated with ongoing litigation, and presents a solid argument for municipalities being more proactive. Lastly, this paper presents a model sidewalk inspection and maintenance policy.
Another paper issued by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust entitled Streets and Sidewalks – Doing the Best with What You Have, offers ten simple suggestions for safer street and sidewalks. Among the ten suggestions include establishing a reporting mechanism for street and sidewalk defects, making sound decisions about where to locate street fixtures (i.e. storm sewer grates, water shut-off valves, utility poles, etc.) to minimize future problems. Generally sidewalks are expected to be more defect free than streets, so if given a choice, work should occur in the street and not the sidewalk. Other recommendations include documenting inspections and repair decisions, knowing what the city owns, paying special attention to transition zones (e.g., between sidewalk and wheelchair ramps and between gutter and sidewalk), taking special care of special surfaces, being aware of potential obstructions in sidewalk zones and responding to complaints.
Winter Maintenance of Pedestrian Facilities in Delaware: A Guide for Local Governments, developed by the Institute for Public Administration at the University of Delaware is a comprehensive guide to winter maintenance that provides a well-researched argument for communities to adopt formal winter maintenance policies and practices as a means to minimize risk and liability. The Guide contains a section on the legal aspects of shared winter maintenance, which includes federal law and municipal maintenance requirements, responsibilities of various agencies, special assessment districts and maintenance agreements.
The Guide provides a thorough discussion of the steps a municipality should take to mitigate risk, including having an ordinance that clearly establishes responsibility and ensuring that this ordinance is consistently enforced. It also recommends that when property owners are required under a local ordinance to maintain, repair, and clear snow from sidewalks, a municipality should go beyond enforcement and also advise property owners to take additional steps beyond shoveling. Other important steps to clearing sidewalks include diverting melt water away from sidewalks and avoid piling snow onto curb ramps and bikeways, in order to reduce risk of liability.
Winter maintenance is a topic well covered by existing literature. While most federal and state manuals touch upon the importance of removing snow from sidewalks (primarily from an ADA perspective) and identify some of the challenges, they do not generally offer detailed guidance. However, there are a number of other good resources available that provide detailed information about why winter maintenance policies and programs are important. The resources include good examples of tools and practices that are in place throughout North America. Many existing resources focus on snow management plans that encompass both street and sidewalk maintenance. Of particular note, are the resources discussed below.
Winter Maintenance of Pedestrian Facilities in Delaware: A Guide for Local Governments, developed by the Institute for Public Administration at the University of Delaware is a comprehensive guide to winter maintenance that provides a well-researched argument for cities to adopt formal winter maintenance policies and programs and provides detailed information about the key elements of winter maintenance management plans. Perhaps the most informative part of the Guide are examples of policies, programs and practices that cities throughout North America have put in place. Examples touch on everything from communications between agencies and departments, to prioritizing maintenance efforts, to regulations on sidewalk snow removal, to examples of citizen-assistance programs. The Guide also provides a pro/con review of the different types of equipment that can be used for sidewalk snow removal.
The Snow Removal Policy Toolkit developed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Boston Metro Area) is an excellent resource intended to better inform communities about snow removal policies and procedures and to provide them with tools to increase compliance and safety. The toolkit provides examples and guidance on how local governments should approach snow removal, including effective ordinances and regulations and use of technologies. The Toolkit includes verbatim excerpts from snow clearance ordinances in the Boston region and comparison charts of time allotted for residents to clear their sidewalk and fines for not doing so.
WalkBoston's Keep it Clear: Recommendations for Sidewalk Snow and Ice Removal in Massachusetts offers seven recommendations what municipalities should do to improve snow removal, which are easily transferrable to other regions and states. Of note are the report's suggestions for social awareness campaigns that create a norm of snow clearance, a framework for prioritizing snow removal and recommendations for how to design sidewalks for easier snow removal and storage. The report also offers a model sidewalk snow and ice removal ordinance.
Unlike the resources above that advise or guide on how to do removal or the importance of it, communities rarely provide guidance to property owners abutting sidewalks on how best to remove snow and ice from sidewalks. As part of an extensive snow removal program, the City of Chicago has developed the Snow Removal: Guidance for Chicago Residents and Businesses pamphlet that is available in print or on the city's website. The pamphlet provides clear diagrams and images as to how to clear snow so that ADA guidelines are met along sidewalks, landings and curb ramps. The city also provides information on how to report violations. For positive reinforcement, the city has a "Winter Wonder Nomination" where the public can nominate businesses and organizations that demonstrate outstanding sidewalk snow clearing practices. The City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, also has an informative website for snow removal with an emphasis on pedestrian needs. The site links to resources and videos geared toward educating citizens about sidewalk snow removal. The City of Worcester, Massachusetts, provides a handout that has detailed written information about how, from where and when to remove snow and the associated fines for not doing so. It also clearly identifies who is responsible for sidewalk snow removal.
While sidewalk repair and replacement is a topic that is discussed in many of the identified resources, the majority of these resources offer little specific guidance on repair and replacement policies, procedures or techniques. One exception is Sidewalk Design, Construction, and Maintenance from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which provides a fairly comprehensive overview of sidewalk failure mechanisms and discussion of specific remedial measures. The League of Minnesota Cities' Sidewalk inspection and Maintenance Policies: They Are All They're Cracked Up to Be white paper addresses prioritization of sidewalk repairs and replacement including establishing criteria and a repair and replacement schedule. The paper also offers a model sidewalk inspection and maintenance policy that includes a sidewalk replacement and repair policy.
Among the local policy and guidance that has been analyzed, the communities that seem to have unique or innovative elements include Honolulu (involving volunteers in sidewalk repair and verification), Corvallis, Oregon (clearly outlines city's procedures for recouping repair costs from property owner), Seattle, Washington, and Clive, Iowa, which provide "how-to" guides that walk a property owner through the steps of sidewalk repair, including illustrations of sidewalk deficiencies, securing a permit, hiring a contractor, and protecting trees. Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, has a Sidewalk Management Program that involves annual inspection of one of ten target areas, identification of pedestrian hazards, a bid process for sidewalk repairs and mailing of inspection reports to property owners that includes estimated costs and information about options for sidewalk repair, including financing.
There are numerous approaches to assessing sidewalk condition and identifying maintenance needs ranging from routine inspection by city staff or contractors to citizen reporting and utilizing volunteers. The Sidewalks and Shared-use Paths: Safety, Security, and Maintenance, Summary Report provides a good overview with examples of the different approaches to inspection and problem reporting that agencies are using. Chapter 11 of FHWA's Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access – Part 2, Best Practices Guide (2001) provides a thorough discussion of sidewalk assessment considerations and techniques. Chapter 10 of this guide discusses various non-internet based citizen-reporting techniques used by agencies. Since the publication of this report, many communities have initiated on-line reporting procedures. The League of Minnesota Cities' Sidewalk inspection and Maintenance Policies: They Are All They're Cracked Up to Be white paper makes several recommendations related to inspection and includes a model sidewalk inspection and maintenance policy that establishes inspection procedures. Doing the Best with What You Have also from the League of Minnesota Cities suggests having a central repository for all requests that may come from citizens or from city employees such as police, street maintenance crews or parking enforcement.
Among the local policy and guidance that has been reviewed, the communities that clearly outline sidewalk assessment procedures include Clive, Iowa (establishes a schedule), Missoula, Montana (establishes priority areas), and Honolulu, Hawaii (establishes a schedule and explains method). Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, is one of the first communities in Wisconsin to computerize their inspection process and sidewalk database and GIS for field inspection and mapping.
Florida DOT's Office of Maintenance has a very detailed inspection process operationalized through its Maintenance Rating Handbook. A high standard is established for sidewalk maintenance: "99.5% of sidewalk area is free of vertical misalignments greater than 1/4 inch, horizontal cracks greater than 3/4 inch, or spalled areas greater than ½ inch in depth, and no visible hazards". A series of photos and descriptions help inspectors properly measure conditions. The overall standard is measured in square feet, but any foot of linear misalignment or cracking is computed as one square foot of sidewalk area not meeting desired conditions.
Compliance and enforcement efforts are not discussed in much detail in any of the federal or state resources. On the local level, the majority of compliance and enforcement issues discussed are in relation to sidewalk conditions during the winter. Regarding repairs, it is common for communities to have the responsibility to respond to structural deficiencies in sidewalks such as displacements (heaved panels) and cracking. Many jurisdictions have ordinances or policies that require adjacent property owners to fund sidewalk replacement when undertaken by the community. In other cases, the community will repair and replace sidewalks on their own without any property owner involvement. Despite these two approaches to attending to sidewalk repairs, lack of enforcement is still one of the key factors contributing to sidewalk deterioration and non-compliance.
A series of discussions were conducted with communities as part of this research and are detailed later in this chapter. Although there was not a specific question regarding sidewalk repair enforcement, several communities did speak of this in relation to other questions. Of those jurisdictions who spoke of the enforcement protocol, or lack thereof, many of them conveyed that enforcement of sidewalk repair would result in untenable costs to residents and community backlash, others mentioned the issue of shared or unclear responsibility for sidewalk repair, for example in the case of city maintained street trees causing damage to sidewalks. In communities that do enforce delinquent sidewalk repairs, common enforcement mechanisms include tickets from the police department or public works department and bills for work completed by the city. For unpaid fines, it was common for a lien to be placed on the property. Several successful local agency enforcement programs were identified in regard to sidewalk repair. In most cases, this was in communities that have a sidewalk repair program that requires the adjacent property owner to make and fund repairs.
The sidewalk program in the city of Ithaca, New York, "exists to help property owners repair their sidewalks." If the abutting property owner does not address a sidewalk repair, the city sidewalk program issues a Sidewalk Notice of Defect to them when the city has identified a location for sidewalk repair (triggered either by a complaint or by the sidewalk inspection program). The property owner has 60 days to repair the sidewalk. If the sidewalk repair is not made the city will do the repair and charge the property owner for the work plus 25 percent for the cost of labor. If the charge is not paid within a grace period, the charge becomes a lien against the property. On its website the city sidewalk program provides property owners with all of the resources necessary to complete a sidewalk repair including a list of contractors, concrete patching instructions, sidewalk detour plans, etc.
In Hoboken, New Jersey, where sidewalk repair is also the responsibility of the adjacent property owner, the city gives the property owner 14 days to make necessary repairs to damaged sidewalks. If the repair is outstanding after 14 days the city will issue a summons to the property owner.
Vegetation management includes keeping vegetation clear from sidewalks and shared use paths as well as choosing appropriate vegetation and protecting vegetation, particularly trees, during maintenance and construction.
The Sidewalks and Shared-use Paths: Safety, Security, and Maintenance, Summary Report provides a good overview of the considerations of vegetation management, but the focus is primarily on shared-use paths. Constructing, Maintaining and Financing Sidewalks in New Jersey provides a good discussion on street trees including selecting the appropriate type of street tree, avoiding damage to trees during sidewalk construction and repair, and establishing an urban forestry review process for street and sidewalk construction projects. Sidewalk Design, Construction and Maintenance offers brief, yet informative, guidelines for how to avoid tree root damage to sidewalks using appropriate planting techniques.
Among the local policy and guidance that has been analyzed for communities, the Village of Grand Rapids, Ohio, provides guidance on what is required of property owners and what the city will do in terms of vegetation management. Seattle, Washington, and Corvallis, Oregon, address protection of trees during sidewalk repair/replacement, and the latter provides alternative approaches to sidewalk construction as a means to accommodate/protect existing trees.
Raising awareness among the public about sidewalk maintenance is an important component of maintenance programs. In terms of winter maintenance (snow and ice removal) Winter Maintenance of Pedestrian Facilities in Delaware: A Guide for Local Governments is an excellent resource that provides a number of examples of what agencies around North American are doing to communicate with and raise awareness among the public. The Snow Removal Policy Toolkit (Metropolitan Area Planning Council) includes several examples of brochures that agencies have developed to communicate with the public and raise awareness about snow and ice removal. WalkBoston's Keep It Clear report provides a good framework for what they call social awareness campaigns that create a norm of snow clearance.
Several municipalities have developed exceptional public awareness campaigns particularly in regard to winter conditions. The city of Boston and Chicago produce brochures and door hangers and have extensive information about their annual snow plans and the snow removal requirements for sidewalks on the city websites. Many cities also include sidewalk maintenance information in utility bills and on public access TV.
Technology is revolutionizing the maintenance process by speeding and organizing the communication between the public and municipalities. Mobile applications, real-time tracking, and interactive maps, blogs and on-line comment submissions are a few of the common tools used to identify maintenance needs. See Click Fix is a mobile application that allows the public to report and track maintenance concerns via their mobile phone. These types of online reporting methods could be utilized for pedestrian facility maintenance reporting. For information dissemination, blogs, Facebook pages and websites are commonly used.
For communities with frequent winter maintenance, a common use for interactive mapping is real-time snow removal with the use of GPS in snow plows. This is not yet being applied to sidewalk snow removal. Some cities, such as Chicago make text message alerting possible in snow events. This technology has not been applied to sidewalk snow removal but has potential uses such as alerting property owners when it is time to shovel the sidewalks.
The following topics are either not generally discussed or existing guidance does not provide much detail or transferability. These topic areas will likely be important to address in the Guide that will be developed as part of the second phase of this project.