2.1.1 Sidewalks and Walkways

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The Requirements in this Section apply to:
Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, and Designated Public Sector Organizations Private / Not-for-Profit Sector Organizations
Large Small
Yes Yes N/A

Firm, stable and slip-resistant surfaces are critical characteristics of accessible routes. Firm surfaces resist indentations when walked or wheeled on. Stable surfaces return to their original condition once the walking or wheeling pressure has been removed.

Other important characteristics of accessible routes include openings, such as drainage grates, that will not allow wheelchair wheels, canes or footwear to get caught. Openings larger than the measurements provided in the Standard should be relocated out of the walkway or sidewalk. Similarly, overhead barriers or objects protruding into the sidewalk are a hazard for those with vision loss and equally for those distracted by a cell phone. Where these can’t be relocated, the use of cane detectable rails or other barriers around the object will benefit all users.


The requirements of this Section apply to newly constructed and redeveloped outdoor sidewalks or walkways that are intended to be maintained. These paths of travel are intended to have a functional purpose and are not provided for a recreational experience. These requirements do not apply to paths of travel that are regulated under Ontario’s Building Code, such as routes within a site to:

  • barrier-free entrances;
  • passenger loading zones; and
  • parking lots with barrier free parking.

Requirements for the Design of Sidewalks and Walkways

Firm, stable, and Definition:slip resistant.
Clear width
Minimum 1,500 mm, but can be reduced to 1,200 mm at the top of curb ramp.
Definition:Running slope
No steeper than 1:20 (5%). Exception: Sidewalks beside roadways can be steeper than 1:20 (5%), but must not be steeper than the slope of the adjacent roadway.
Definition:Cross slope
No steeper than 1:20 (5%) for hard surfaces (e.g. asphalt, concrete) or 1:10 (10%) in all other cases.
Changes in level
Refer to table 2.1.1
Table 2.1.1 Criteria for Changes in Level along Sidewalks and Walkways.
Changes in level (height) Slope requirements
1-5 mm No bevel required
6-13 mm Must be bevelled with a maximum ratio of 1:2 (50%) (for every 1 unit of height, at least two units of length)
14-74 mm Running slope not steeper than 1:8 (12.5%) or a provide a curb ramp (Refer to Section 2.1.6)
75-200 mm Running slope not steeper than 1:10 (10%) or provide a curb ramp (Refer to Section 2.1.6)
Over 200 mm Provide a ramp (Refer to Section 2.1.2)
Clear Height
Minimum 2,100 mm head room clearance (where less than 2,100 mm, a cane detectable guard or other barrier must be provided to define where the clear height has been reduced).
Entry points to a sidewalk or walkway
Minimum clear opening of 850 mm at entry points, even where the entrance includes a gate, bollard(s), etc.
Surface openings, including horizontal openings
Openings must not allow passage of an object more than 20 mm in diameter; elongated openings must be oriented perpendicular to the direction of travel.

The steepness of sidewalks, walkways and ramps is often expressed as a ratio such as 1:20 (5%).The first number relates to the rise in elevation and the second number expresses the horizontal distance. For example, designing a walkway to a 1:20 (5%) slope would mean for every one unit vertically, the walkway would need to extend 20 units horizontally. A walkway sloped at 1:20 (5%) used to overcome a 200 mm high step, would need to extend 4,000 mm.

Better Practice Considerations

Using textural and Definition:tonal contrast on ground surfaces will help define primary routes and assist with wayfinding. Consider locating all plantings and street furniture in an Definition:amenity zone, adjacent to the sidewalk or walkway. Use different tone or material to emphasize the difference in function of the amenity zone.
Clear width
Consider a minimum of 1,800 mm to allow wheelchairs and scooters to comfortably pass. If a sidewalk or walkway is less than 1800 mm wide, consider providing 1800 mm x 1800 mm passing/turn-around spaces, spaced no more than 30 metres apart. Providing passing/turn-around spaces at such intervals will minimize the distance people who use wheelchairs or scooters will have to back-up, if a route is not wide enough for passing. If a route is at least 1,800 mm wide, persons who use wheelchairs or scooters can pass each other or turn around, anywhere along the route.
Running slope
Consider making it as flat as possible.
Level stopping places and rest areas
Consider providing level stopping places and rest areas along walkways especially sloped walkways longer than 30 metres, to maximize the useability of the paths for people with reduced stamina.
Clear Height
Consider providing a minimum 2,300 mm head room clearance to increase safety for tall people, as well as for people carrying objects.
Surface openings, including horizontal openings
Consider providing openings that will not allow passage of an object more than 12 mm in diameter, to further reduce the possibility of small wheels, cane tips and shoe heels getting caught in openings, grilles and gratings.
Changes in level
Consider minimizing level changes as much as possible — continuous surfaces are more accessible and safer for everyone to use.
Street furniture
Consider possible obstructions once the path is in regular use. Items such as garbage cans, newspaper boxes and bicycle racks can find their way onto what were previously well designed accessible paths. Providing amenity strips adjacent to paths may alleviate this.
Open areas
Consider making direct routes distinct from the surrounding open space where paths cross open areas. Including contrast in surface tone and texture may help a user with vision loss to stay on track.
Definition:Edge protection
Where a walkway is located next to an area which slopes down, or is adjacent to a potential hazard such as a water feature, consider providing edge protection to enhance safety. A curb at least 50 mm high, a railing or other barrier may be used.


Illustrated Technical Guide to the Design of Public Spaces