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FHWA Home / Safety / Pedestrian & Bicycle / Safety Benefits of Walkways, Sidewalks, and Paved Shoulders

Safety Benefits of Walkways, Sidewalks, and Paved Shoulders

FHWA Safety Program

Safe Roads for a Safer Future: Investment in roadway safety saves lives

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration



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In a suburban community a six lane road is built. It serves schools, businesses, and transit routes. Along the length of the highway pedestrian paths are beat into the grass. For pedestrians it isn't comfortable, it isn't accessible, and it isn't safe. It needs a sidewalk.

Students walking along a road
Photo Credit: Michael Ronkin


Annually, around 4,500 pedestrians are killed in traffic crashes with motor vehicles in the United States.1 Pedestrians killed while "walking along the roadway" account for almost 8 percent of these deaths.2 Many of these tragedies are preventable. Providing walkways separated from the travel lanes could help to prevent up to 88 percent of these "walking along roadway crashes."3

Walkways can be created either by providing stabilized or paved surfaces separated from the roadway, or by widening paved shoulders. These treatments can not only improve the safety of pedestrians, but also make pedestrian trips more viable.

Benefits of Sidewalks

Sidewalks separated from the roadway are the preferred accommodation for pedestrians. Sidewalks provide many benefits including safety, mobility, and healthier communities.

In addition to reducing walking along roadway crashes, sidewalks reduce other pedestrian crashes. Roadways without sidewalks are more than twice as likely to have pedestrian crashes as sites with sidewalks on both sides of the street.4

Pedestrians walking on a wide sidewalk
Photo Credit: www.pedbikeimages.org/Dan Burden

Providing walkways for pedestrians dramatically increases how well pedestrians perceive their needs are being met along roadways.5 The wider the separation between the pedestrian and the roadway is, the more comfortable the pedestrian facility.

By providing facilities that are more comfortable, we can increase the number of trips made by walking, particularly in areas with mixed land uses.6 Providing sidewalks, widened paved shoulders, or stabilized shoulders—particularly when providing access to public transit—can increase the transportation options for individuals who may not be able to drive a car. Additionally, by moving pedestrians off the travel lanes, motorist operations are improved and capacity increased.

Research indicates that people will walk for recreational purposes if a facility is provided.6 Recreational walking is one of the easiest ways for people to get the recommended allotment of physical exercise each day. Moderate exercise, such as walking, contributes to both physical and mental well being.7

Benefits of Paved Shoulders

Paved shoulders provide numerous safety benefits for motorists and pedestrians. Installing or widening paved shoulders has the following benefits:

Case Study: Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, Florida

Before the installation of sidewalks, Dale Mabry Highway (SR580) in Tampa, Florida was not a place anyone would feel comfortable walking. Dale Mabry is a commercial corridor with six lanes of traffic, a five foot shoulder, and transit service stopping along the route. Many vehicles using this corridor are traveling faster than the 45 mph posted speed limit and pedestrian crashes were all too common. Even before construction was completed, pedestrians were using the sidewalks. Pedestrians can now walk in a safe location off the roadway/shoulders on separated accessible sidewalks.

Before/During Construction

Construction workers installing sidewalks along Dale Mabry Highway (SR580) in Tampa, Florida
Photo Credit: Bruce Landis

After Construction

Man walking on sidewalk constructed along DaleMabry Highway (SR580) in Tampa, Florida
Photo Credit: Jennifer Bartlett

Guidance Statement/Application

FHWA's Guidance Memorandum on Consideration and Implementation of Proven Safety Countermeasures offers the following guidance for the application of sidewalks and shoulders:

Accessible sidewalks or pathways should be provided and maintained along both sides of streets and highways in urban areas, particularly near school zones and transit locations, and where there is frequent pedestrian activity.

Sidewalks should be considered the preferred treatment for accommodating pedestrians in urban areas and where frequent pedestrian use is expected. For less developed areas with occasional pedestrian traffic expected, the Guidance Memorandum provides the following:

Walkable shoulders (minimum of 4 feet stabilized or paved surface) should be provided along both sides of rural highways…9

For more information, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/memo071008/


  1. NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts 2008 Pedestrians, NHTSA, Washington, D.C., 2009.
  2. FHWA, Pedestrian and Bicycle Crashes of the Early 1990's. Publication No. FHWA-RD-95-163, FHWA, 1995.
  3. FHWA, An Analysis of Factors Contributing to "Walking Along Roadway" Crashes: Research Study and Guidelines for Sidewalks and Walkways. Report No. FHWA-RD-01-101, FHWA, Washington D.C., 2001.
  4. FHWA Investigation of Exposure-Based Pedestrian Accident Areas: Crosswalks, Sidewalks, Local Streets, and Major Arterials. Publication No. FHWA/RD87-038, FHWA, Washington, D.C., 1987.
  5. NCHRP Report 616, Multimodal Level of Service Analysis for Urban Streets. TRB, Washington D.C., 2008.
  6. Florida Department of Transportation, Conserve by Bicycle and Pedestrian Study Phase II. FDOT, Tallahassee, FL, 2009.
  7. Center for Disease Control, A Report of the Surgeon General, Physical Activity and Health, At-A-Glance. CDC, Atlanta, GA, 1996.
  8. Florida Department of Transportation, Update of Florida Crash Reduction Factors and Countermeasures to improve the Development of District Safety Improvement Projects. FDOT, Tallahassee, FL, 2005.
  9. Lindley, J., Guidance Memorandum on Consideration and Implementation of Proven Safety Countermeasures FHWA, Washington D.C., July 2008.

For More Information:

For more information, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike

FHWA, Office of Safety

Tamara Redmon

Page last modified on February 1, 2013
Safe Roads for a Safer Future - Investment in roadway safety saves lives
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