These diagrams (from the Oregon Department of Transportation's Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan) illustrate sidewalk and pathway clearance issues. The lefthand diagram shows that the ideal sidewalk width is six feet or more. This allows two people to walk side-by-side, and allows pedestrians traveling in opposite directions to comfortably pass one another. Sidewalks in residential areas are often only four feet wide, and may be further narrowed by bushes and trees growing over the sidewalk.
Vertical clearance above the sidewalk, for signs, awnings, trees, or other overhanging objects, should be at least seven feet to accomodate the range of pedestrian heights.
Where there is a wall, fence, or other obstruction immediately adjacent to a sidewalk, additional horizontal clearance is recommended, since people don't want to bump into the obstruction. This additional clearance is called "shy distance", and should be at least one foot, as shown in the diagram on the right (the Oregon DOT recommends two feet).
For more information and photos, see also:
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