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NYC Active Design Supplement: Shaping the Sidewalk Experience


This document presents a framework for thinking about sidewalks differently and serves as a resource for those who shape the built environment.

Shaping the Sidewalk Experience aims to provide theory, resources, and tools for communities working to encourage physical activity by transforming their built environments. This two-part publication aligns with the goals of the Active Design Guidelines in striving to promote health and integrate physical activity into our daily lives by using active design strategies.

  • The first section touches on the history, health impacts, existing efforts, infrastructure and financial benefits, challenges, and synergies surrounding sidewalk design. It presents a conceptual framework of the "sidewalk room," approaching it as a habitable space broken into four planes that surround the pedestrian, and provides a methodology for beginning to grapple with the complexities involved in shaping the sidewalk experience.
  • The second section provides a methodology to guide those shaping the sidewalk experience and offers a spatial atlas of national initiatives and policies that can inform sidewalk design.

This toolkit can be used by urban designers, architects, landscape architects, planners, policy makers, community activists, educators, and students to advocate for the pedestrian experience and ultimately influence the walkability of our communities.

Shaping the Sidewalk Experience was developed by the New York City Department of City Planning, with support from the NYC Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Design and Construction. Work related to this publication has been made possible through funding provided to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Primary Toolkit:

Environmental Health in All Policies (HiAP)

Keyword Area:

Active Living, Community Design, Land Use, Physical Activity, Planning, Traffic Safety, Transportation Planning, Zoning



Institutional Author:

New York City Department of City Planning, with support from the NYC Departments of Health and Menta





The NACCHO Toolbox is a repository of available resources to help local public health practitioners. Tools are produced by local, state, and federal agencies, as well as academic institutions and other stakeholders. The contents of this Toolbox are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect any official recommendations of NACCHO. NACCHO makes no express or implied warranty with respect to the contents and disclaims liability for any damages arising from or connected to the use of the material in this Toolbox.