Sidewalks and Buffers

For sidewalks and pedestrian walkways, there are three basic elements for streetside guidance: the landscaped buffer, clear sidewalk width, and the building shy zone. The landscaped buffer provides both a separation from the roadway and a place for bus stop, signage, utilities and street furniture. Pedestrian clear sidewalk width is sometimes referred to as the pedestrian throughway. All urban and suburban roadways should include these two elements in order to provide adequate pedestrian accommodation.


Sidewalks are an essential component to providing pedestrian access to businesses, residences, and public spaces. Sidewalks are part of active transportation networks and should be included in all urban and suburban roads.

The City of Albuquerque’s Development Process Manual requires 6’ sidewalk widths. This is a comfortable width for two people to walk side by side and converse. Larger sidewalk widths should be included in areas of higher pedestrian traffic, such as activity centers, retail streets, active transit stops, and near schools. Creating an even walking surface is also important to facilitate comfortable pedestrian travel. For example, multiple curb cuts along a street that cut into the sidewalk can be consolidated to reduce the number of conflict points between entering and exiting vehicles and pedestrians while also creating a more even walking surface.

Sidewalk Buffers

Buffers along sidewalks can be provided to increase pedestrian comfort by increasing the lateral separation between pedestrians and fast moving cars. These buffers can be landscaped and include street trees, green infrastructure, street infrastructure such as lighting or utility poles, and transit stops. They also provide space for driveway pads while allowing he sidewalk to remain level.

Although sidewalks are not necessary along most rural roads, a wide shoulder can be provided for bicyclists and pedestrians. In rural areas with increased activity, sidewalks can be considered, or right-of-way set aside for future sidewalks if development progresses.

Building Shy Zones

The building shy zone refers to areas where buildings or walls that adjoin the pedestrian clear zone. This area reduces conflicts from people exiting buildings and reduces the effect of people shying away from walls or other vertical structures that boarder sidewalks. If buildings and walls are setback or if the clear sidewalk area abuts flat landscaping such as lawn then this extra area is not necessary.