The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


TTAP Newsletter: RoadTalk

Maintaining Pedestrian Facilities for Enhanced Safety

by Dr. Airton Kohls (Source: US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration)

With the primary goal of increasing safety and mobility, in October 2013 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released A Guide for Maintaining Pedestrian Facilities for Enhanced Safety as one of several means of reducing the approximately 4,000 pedestrian fatalities and tens of thousands of pedestrian injuries occurring in the United States annually.

Damaged detectable warning fields

One way pedestrian safety can be improved is by encouraging state, local and municipal governments to provide and maintain accessible sidewalks along streets and highways where there is pedestrian activity such as near school zones, transit locations and other locations with frequent pedestrian activity. Although there are guidelines and standards to aid in the design of pedestrian facilities, it can be difficult to adequately maintain facilities once they are in place so they remain safe and accessible. Federal funding is not available for maintenance activities, and many state and local government agencies have severely constrained resources for monitoring, inspecting, and maintaining sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities. Not only does this problem relate to walkability and accessibility, there are also liability consequences related to poor, inadequate, or infrequent inspection and maintenance of pedestrian facilities.

Sidewalks or walkways (a slightly broader term that also includes walks that do not parallel a street) received the greatest attention in this Guide as they comprise the vast majority of the pedestrian system in the United States. Shared use paths will often have the same maintenance needs as sidewalks, and where a discussion can cover sidewalks and paths, the guide does so. The guide includes discussions on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) including curb ramps, detectable warning fields and sidewalk surface materials. Pedestrian facilities used to cross streets, such as crosswalks and signals, and their associated maintenance issues are also discussed. Other sections of the report include funding and techniques to elongate the maintenance life of pedestrian facilities. All of the sections include a discussion of exemplary maintenance practices from around the United States and recommendations for maintenance.

Who is responsible for facility maintenance?
Many jurisdictions have laws or ordinances addressing pedestrian facility maintenance, which often require the adjacent property owner to repair deteriorated sidewalks adjacent to their property. More often ordinances require property owners to remove snow and ice and vegetation encroaching onto sidewalks. However, property owner requirements and enforcement of these regulations may vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Maintenance of shared use paths is more complicated still, because the agencies that are responsible for them do not always make a practice of monitoring them and making sure they are in safe and passable condition.

A Guide for Maintaining Pedestrian Facilities for Enhanced Safety is a comprehensive reference that addresses the needs for pedestrian facility maintenance; common maintenance issues; inspection, accessibility, and compliance; maintenance measurers; funding; and construction techniques to reduce future maintenance. A free document download is available at:

If you have a project that you would like to submit for the 2014 Tennessee Build a Better Mousetrap competition, visit the TTAP website at If you have questions about the competition or know of an innovative solution that has been implemented by another Tennessee local agency, please call Matt Cate or Airton Kohls at 1-800-252-7623 or send us an email at

The following are examples of maintenance repair methods for sidewalks and paths:


Missing areas of concrete have been marked for repair
The areas have been temporarily repaired with asphalt patches. Note the patching material overlaid on the concrete extending beyond the hole.


A small wedge may still create a hazard or be difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. This wedge had deteriorated over time.
Wedge has been placed to mitigate the hazard caused by a raised sidewalk slab. Note the extensive and appropriate ramping of the wedge.

Cracking Repairs

A small wedge may still create a hazard or be difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. This wedge had deteriorated over time.

Looking to add another great reference to your toolbox?
Check out the Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System at
It is intended to provide practitioners with the latest information available for improving the safety and mobility of those who walk. The online tools provide the user with a list of possible engineering, education, or enforcement treatments to improve pedestrian safety and/or mobility based on user input about a specific location.