Pedestrian friendly streets allow people to reach destinations safely, directly, comfortably, and conveniently. Sidewalks form an important part of public space; they are places where people can meet, socialize, play, have fun, wonder and learn.

Walking along a street and crossing a street should be easy, safe, convenient, and comfortable.

Nowhere is the concept “universal design” as important as in pedestrian street/sidewalk design. Pedestrian environment should be safe, attractive, inviting and accessible to people of all ages and physical abilities. Pedestrian environment should be legible and easy to use, continuous and seamlessly lead people to their destinations. Pavements and sidewalks should be made of non-slippery and smooth materials. When placing street elements on sidewalks, such as, signs, benches, greenery or bike stands, they should be placed in the “street furniture zone”, i.e. in places where they do not obstruct the flow of pedestrians along the sidewalk. At the same time street furniture and other elements can be used to organize and manage the flow of pedestrians.

The concept of “universal design” is new in Latvia, and is only slowly gaining popularity. The concept is most commonly used in Norway where it has been included in policy documents, statutes and technical guidelines.

Universal design is an alternative way of thinking and places human diversity at the centre of design process, thus human comfort and safety are the main criteria for creating inclusive streetscapes. Universal design does not determine specific necessities for a particular social group, it does, however, make all services, all infrastructure and the environment accessible to everyone in society.

Principles of Universal Design:

  • Equitable use: avoid segregating any users, make the design appealing and equally available to all users;
  • Flexibility in use: provide choice of methods of use;
  • Simple and intuitive use: eliminate unnecessary complexity and use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level;
  • Perceptible information: design communicates necessary information effectively to the user and uses different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information;
  • Tolerance for error: design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions;
  • Low physical effort: design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue;
  • Size and space for approach and use: appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.

Examples of good practice with regard to Universal Design principles in streetscape planning:

  • Slope of curb ramps should not be steeper than 1:12 or 8%;
  • The sidewalk must be kept free from any overhanging projections to a height of 2.4 metres above the sidewalk surface;
  • Minimum width of ramp should be 1.20 metres, it must be fitted with a curb along its entire length;
  • The minimum width of a two-way curb ramp should be 1.80 metres;
  • Width of curb ramp should be 1.30 to 1.40 metres if one lane is for wheelchair use and the other lane is for movement without a wheelchair;
  • Minimum curb height is 150 mm;
  • At the top and at the bottom of ramps a maneuvering area of at least 1500 mm in diameter is needed.

In specific neighbourhoods or high streets special sidewalk paving can be used, for example, colored concrete, cobbles or other materials, they should be smooth and easy to maintain.

Although streetscape design is important for all users, pedestrians are those who will appreciate the functionality and aesthetic quality of streetscape design elements the most.