Planning and designing walkable pedestrian networks and communities requires the consideration of seven key characteristics that focus on the needs of all pedestrians. These characteristics should be used throughout the planning and design process to identify the impact of decisions on the pedestrian experience and to ensure a consistently high quality walking environment[1]. It is noted the characteristics are broad and there is overlap between them.

Public areas and walking facilities should be safe as practicable to use at all times of day and for people to feel safe to spend time in.

All walking environments should adhere to the principles of inclusive design by ensuring that they are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible.

Walking areas should allow unhindered movement for pedestrians by providing sufficient space, even surfaces and gentle gradients.

Facilities should be positioned to provide convenient links between major walking trip attractors, without impediments from obstacles or other road users.

Features should be consistent and easy to understand for all pedestrians to know intuitively how to navigate a space.

Walking networks should have a high density of route options to connect pedestrians to the places they wish to reach including public transport and surrounding networks.

Walking environments should be inviting for pedestrians to pass through or spend time in. This can mean low levels of noise and pollution, places to shelter, play, or rest, as well as a clean and visually appealing environment.

The principles of Safe, Obvious and Step-free (SOS) ensures universal access is addressed. It is important that safe, obvious and step-free routes are provided as a priority on the most important pedestrian routes in towns and cities.

PNG: Principles of Safe, Obvious and Step-free (SOS)

The above characteristics should be used to plan for improvements for walking in existing streets, and to ensure new developments are walkable.

PNG: Planning methods

A number of other methods describing similar characteristics have been developed internationally to categorise environmental factors for walking including the 5C’s and the 7C’s. The seven pedestrian network characteristics explained above based on the Transport for London principles are considered the most distinct and simple to understand.


[1] Based on Transport for London. (2020). Planning for Walking Toolkit(external link)