Seattle Sidewalk Accessibility Guide

People use Seattle's sidewalks to walk, jog, roll, and play. In some cases, people cannot easily access the sidewalks due to obstructions, poor conditions, and missing sidewalks. Almost 24% of streets lack sidewalks, mostly in north and south Seattle and our industrial districts. Seattle's Pedestrian Master Plan (PMP) and PMP Implementation Plan guides our investments in new sidewalks and walkways. The PMP envisions Seattle as the most walkable and accessible city in the nation. We want people to walk safely and with pleasure in ever-increasing numbers. With walking being the most accessible form of transportation and recreation, a quality pedestrian network is at the core of an equitable, accessible transportation system. 

Seattle has almost 2,300 miles of sidewalk that help people travel safely and move around the city. While repairs are often the property owner's responsibility (see Researching Sidewalk Issues), we may use temporary measures such as asphalt shims and bevels to maintain safe passage. Visit the Sidewalk Repair Program website and Maintenance Program StoryMap for more information. To request service, contact us through any of the methods below.

We've created this guide to help educate property owners, renters, contractors, and the traveling public on what we can do to take better care of sidewalks. To get started, click on one of the user roles below. Contact us at SDOTAssets@seattle.gov if you have questions on this guide.

Homeowner Responsibilities

Plants, trees, sandwich boards, signage, and utility poles can make it hard for people to get around on our sidewalks. We refer to these things as fixed and temporary "obstructions" because they limit access along the path. Anything that restricts the width of the walking path to less than 36 inches such as bikes and scooters could be considered an obstruction. 

Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Title 15 requires property owners to keep the sidewalk adjacent to their property safe and in good condition to encourage public travel for all sidewalk users. Visit our Property Owners' Responsibilities Site for further details and see our guidance below on clearing and repairing sidewalks.

Property owners must maintain vegetation at least 8 feet above the sidewalk, 14 feet above the curb, and at least 1 foot back from the edge of the sidewalk. See the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections Tip 611 on Weed and Vegetation Enforcement for more info.  

Cross section graphic of landscaping, trees, sidewalks, roadway, and traffic that shows the vegetation clearance area necessary for a sidewalk. On the sidewalk are a person with a cane and a person in a wheelchair. On the road there is a truck.

Sidewalk vegetation clearance graphic. 

Plants, trees, leaves, loose gravel, and debris can cause issues for pedestrians. Everyone and their neighbors must keep their sidewalks clear from surface conditions and obstructions.

Sidewalk partially obstructed by laurel bushes.  Landscape area and street on the right. Sidewalk fully obstructed by bushes and partially covered in debris.  Landscape area and street on the right.

Sidewalk covered with deteriorating, amber-colored leaves  Sidewalk covered with snow and leaf debris Sidewalk covered amber leaf debris  

The images above show some of the challenges people will encounter when trying to use your sidewalk. 

Sidewalk Vegetation & Debris Clearing Programs

Keep Seattle streets and sidewalks litter-free by participating in  Adopt-a-Street! or Spring Clean. Adopt-a-Street is Seattle's grassroots litter-removal program. Join the thousands of volunteers who clean up hundreds of miles of Seattle's city streets and sidewalks. For more information on tree pruning and permits see the Tree Maintenance section.

For a few ideas on clearing leaves and preparing for winter weather see our SDOT Blog: The leaves are falling and autumn is officially here! It's time to clear our sidewalks and start preparing for winter weather and the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways blog: Volunteers Clear Sidewalks and Bike Lanes in South Seattle: Volunteers Clear Sidewalks and Bike Lanes in South Seattle. The latter article covers how volunteers from Rainier Valley Greenways-Safe Streets and Beacon Hill Safe Streets organized a work party to remove debris and overgrown vines from sidewalks, clear out drains, and clean debris off curb ramps and bike lanes in several locations.

It is difficult getting around the city when it snows and even more challenging when using a wheeled device. By shoveling snow in front of your property, you can help reduce access issues for everyone. We worked with Rooted in Rights to produce the video below on shoveling snow and maintaining access.  

Winter Weather Response

The Sidewalk Research and Maintenance Activities Web Apps are available on our Interactive Maps site, along with the Seattle Accessibility Route Planner  and the SDOT Assets Map. Go to the Researching Sidewalk Issues section of this guide for more information.  

If you'd like to learn more about the asset data, create your own maps, or further interact with the data, see our GIS Open Data Portal.

If you have questions about these maps or find data errors, contact us at SDOTAssets@seattle.gov with the location and asset ID along with the incorrect or missing information.

Seattle Municipal Code (SMC), Title 15 requires that property owners keep the sidewalk adjacent to their property fit and safe for the purposes of public travel. Below are examples of sidewalks in need of repair.

Sidewalk adjacent to a street tree and planting strip shows cracking and height differences in the sidewalk. Perpendicular sidewalk crack. Parallel sidewalk crack.

The sidewalk is cracked.

Sidewalk uplift Missing sidewalk gap painted in white. Deteriorating sidewalk with cracks and gaps adjacent to landscaping.

There is a fault or other gaps in the sidewalk.

Sidewalk built of gray and pink pavers with one paver able to be moved with foot pressure. Sidewalk adjacent to landscaping, leaves and street tree with several isolated cross slope issues. Sidewalk with isolated cross slope causing water to pond.

Any piece of the sidewalk can be moved with ordinary foot pressure or the grade or slope of the sidewalk creates a concern for safe pedestrian passage.

Prior to repairing the sidewalk, a permit is required. This ensures the walkway meets the City's standards and infrastructure such as utilities and trees are protected. See Client Assistance Memo 2208, which covers information for property owners, contractor resources, sidewalk repair and tree guidance, and references. Sidewalk design guidance is provided in Chapter 3.2 of our Streets Illustrated design standards. For more information on tree pruning and permits see the Tree Maintenance section of this guide.

Joining your neighbors to hire a contractor can be a cost effective and efficient way to repair sidewalks. Property owners can work together with a contractor to replace sidewalks in front of their homes under the same permit, which can save thousands of dollars.

There are some helpful ways to maintain sidewalk access during construction. Be sure to provide paths that are clear of signage and debris, use sturdy barriers, include ramps, and verify construction fencing provides enough width for access.

Temporary obstructions, such as the sandwich board seen below, make it hard for people in wheeled devices to access a sidewalk. For more information on Pedestrian Mobility around Work Zones, see Director's Rule 10-2015.

This sidewalk is blocked by a temporary no park A frame sign.
 
This video educates people working in the right of way on the importance of maintaining access. Learn more about Right-of-Way (ROW) Construction on our website.

Visit Seattle Public Utilities Side Sewer Info & Responsibilities website to learn more about taking care of your sewer pipe and troubleshooting. Check out these helpful guides on reducing clogs and backups in the sewer system: What to Flush, and Fats, Oils, & Grease.

Are you investing in an electric vehicle and want to make sure you can charge it from your home to the road in front of your home? Here's a Client Assistance Memo (CAM 2119)  for residential use that provides guidance on how to install a charging cord across sidewalks so it doesn't create a tripping issue. 

Renter Responsibilities

Plants, trees, sandwich boards, signage, and utility poles can make it hard for people to walk, run, roll, etc. We refer to these kinds of intrusions on users' experiences of the sidewalk as fixed and temporary "obstructions" because they limit access along the path. Anything that restricts the width of the walking path to less than 36 inches could be considered an obstruction. Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Title 15 requires property owners to keep the sidewalk adjacent to their property safe and in good condition to encourage public travel for all sidewalk users. See our guidance below on clearing sidewalks.

Property owners must maintain vegetation at least 8 feet above the sidewalk, 14 feet above the curb, and at least 1 foot back from the edge of the sidewalk. See the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections Tip 611 on Weed and Vegetation Enforcement for more info.  

Cross section graphic of landscaping, trees, sidewalks, roadway, and traffic that shows the vegetation clearance area necessary for a sidewalk. On the sidewalk are a person with a cane and a person in a wheelchair. On the road there is a truck.

Sidewalk vegetation clearance graphic. 

Plants, trees, leaves, loose gravel, and debris can cause issues for pedestrians. Everyone and their neighbors must keep their sidewalks clear from surface conditions and obstructions.

Sidewalk partially obstructed by laurel bushes.  Landscape area and street on the right. Sidewalk fully obstructed by bushes and partially covered in debris.  Landscape area and street on the right.

Sidewalk covered with deteriorating, amber-colored leaves  Sidewalk covered with snow and leaf debris Sidewalk covered amber leaf debris  

The images above show some of the challenges people will encounter when trying to use your sidewalk. 

Sidewalk Vegetation & Debris Clearing Programs

Keep Seattle streets and sidewalks litter-free by participating in  Adopt-a-Street! or Spring Clean. Adopt-a-Street is Seattle's grassroots litter-removal program. Join the thousands of volunteers who clean up hundreds of miles of Seattle's city streets and sidewalks. For more information on tree pruning and permits see the Tree Maintenance section.

For a few ideas on clearing leaves and preparing for winter weather see our SDOT Blog: The leaves are falling and autumn is officially here! It's time to clear our sidewalks and start preparing for winter weather and the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways blog: Volunteers Clear Sidewalks and Bike Lanes in South Seattle: Volunteers Clear Sidewalks and Bike Lanes in South Seattle. The latter article covers how volunteers from Rainier Valley Greenways-Safe Streets and Beacon Hill Safe Streets organized a work party to remove debris and overgrown vines from sidewalks, clear out drains, and clean debris off curb ramps and bike lanes in several locations.

It is difficult getting around the city when it snows and even more challenging when using a wheeled device. By shoveling snow in front of your property, you can help reduce access issues for everyone. We worked with Rooted in Rights to produce the video below on shoveling snow and maintaining access.  

Winter Weather Response

The Sidewalk Research and Maintenance Activities Web Apps are available on our Interactive Maps site, along with the Seattle Accessibility Route Planner  and the SDOT Assets Map. Go to the Researching Sidewalk Issues section of this guide for more information.  

If you'd like to learn more about the asset data, create your own maps, or further interact with the data, see our GIS Open Data Portal.

If you have questions about these maps or find data errors, contact us at SDOTAssets@seattle.gov with the location and asset ID along with the incorrect or missing information.

Visit Seattle Public Utilities Side Sewer Info & Responsibilities website to learn more about taking care of your sewer pipe and troubleshooting. Check out these helpful guides on reducing clogs and backups in the sewer system: What to Flush, and Fats, Oils, & Grease.

Are you investing in an electric vehicle and want to make sure you can charge it from your home to the road in front of your home? Here's a Client Assistance Memo (CAM 2119)  for residential use that provides guidance on how to install a charging cord across sidewalks so it doesn't create a tripping issue. 

Business Responsibilities

Plants, trees, sandwich boards, signage, and utility poles can make it hard for people to walk, run, roll, etc. We refer to these kinds of intrusions on users' experiences of the sidewalk as fixed and temporary "obstructions" because they limit access along the path. In fact, anything that restricts the width of the walking path to less than 36 inches, such as bikes and scooters, could be considered an obstruction. Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) Title 15 requires property owners to keep the sidewalk adjacent to their property safe and in good condition to encourage public travel for all sidewalk users. Visit our Property Owners' Responsibilities site for further details and our guidance below on clearing and repairing sidewalks.

Property owners must maintain vegetation at least 8 feet above the sidewalk, 14 feet above the curb, and at least 1 foot back from the edge of the sidewalk. See the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections Tip 611 on Weed and Vegetation Enforcement for more info.  

Cross section graphic of landscaping, trees, sidewalks, roadway, and traffic that shows the vegetation clearance area necessary for a sidewalk. On the sidewalk are a person with a cane and a person in a wheelchair. On the road there is a truck.

Sidewalk vegetation clearance graphic. 

Plants, trees, leaves, loose gravel, and debris can cause issues for pedestrians. Everyone and their neighbors must keep their sidewalks clear from surface conditions and obstructions.

Sidewalk partially obstructed by laurel bushes.  Landscape area and street on the right. Sidewalk fully obstructed by bushes and partially covered in debris.  Landscape area and street on the right.

Sidewalk covered with deteriorating, amber-colored leaves  Sidewalk covered with snow and leaf debris Sidewalk covered amber leaf debris  

The images above show some of the challenges people will encounter when trying to use your sidewalk. 

Sidewalk Vegetation & Debris Clearing Programs

Keep Seattle streets and sidewalks litter-free by participating in  Adopt-a-Street! or Spring Clean. Adopt-a-Street is Seattle's grassroots litter-removal program. Join the thousands of volunteers who clean up hundreds of miles of Seattle's city streets and sidewalks. For more information on tree pruning and permits see the Tree Maintenance section.

For a few ideas on clearing leaves and preparing for winter weather see our SDOT Blog: The leaves are falling and autumn is officially here! It's time to clear our sidewalks and start preparing for winter weather and the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways blog: Volunteers Clear Sidewalks and Bike Lanes in South Seattle: Volunteers Clear Sidewalks and Bike Lanes in South Seattle. The latter article covers how volunteers from Rainier Valley Greenways-Safe Streets and Beacon Hill Safe Streets organized a work party to remove debris and overgrown vines from sidewalks, clear out drains, and clean debris off curb ramps and bike lanes in several locations.

It is difficult getting around the city when it snows and even more challenging when using a wheeled device. By shoveling snow in front of your property, you can help reduce access issues for everyone. We worked with Rooted in Rights to produce the video below on shoveling snow and maintaining access.  

Winter Weather Response

The Sidewalk Research and Maintenance Activities Web Apps are available on our Interactive Maps site, along with the Seattle Accessibility Route Planner  and the SDOT Assets Map. Go to the Researching Sidewalk Issues section of this guide for more information.  

If you'd like to learn more about the asset data, create your own maps, or further interact with the data, see our GIS Open Data Portal.

If you have questions about these maps or find data errors, contact us at SDOTAssets@seattle.gov with the location and asset ID along with the incorrect or missing information.

Seattle Municipal Code (SMC), Title 15 requires that property owners keep the sidewalk adjacent to their property fit and safe for the purposes of public travel. Below are examples of sidewalks in need of repair.

Sidewalk adjacent to a street tree and planting strip shows cracking and height differences in the sidewalk. Perpendicular sidewalk crack. Parallel sidewalk crack.

The sidewalk is cracked.

Sidewalk uplift Missing sidewalk gap painted in white. Deteriorating sidewalk with cracks and gaps adjacent to landscaping.

There is a fault or other gaps in the sidewalk.

Sidewalk built of gray and pink pavers with one paver able to be moved with foot pressure. Sidewalk adjacent to landscaping, leaves and street tree with several isolated cross slope issues. Sidewalk with isolated cross slope causing water to pond.

Any piece of the sidewalk can be moved with ordinary foot pressure or the grade or slope of the sidewalk creates a concern for safe pedestrian passage.

Prior to repairing the sidewalk, a permit is required. This ensures the walkway meets the City's standards and infrastructure such as utilities and trees are protected. See Client Assistance Memo 2208, which covers information for property owners, contractor resources, sidewalk repair and tree guidance, and references. Sidewalk design guidance is provided in Chapter 3.2 of our Streets Illustrated design standards. For more information on tree pruning and permits see the Tree Maintenance section of this guide.

Joining your neighbors to hire a contractor can be a cost effective and efficient way to repair sidewalks. Property owners can work together with a contractor to replace sidewalks in front of their homes under the same permit, which can save thousands of dollars.

There are some helpful ways to maintain sidewalk access during construction. Be sure to provide paths that are clear of signage and debris, use sturdy barriers, include ramps, and verify construction fencing provides enough width for access.

Temporary obstructions, such as the sandwich board seen below, make it hard for people in wheeled devices to access a sidewalk. For more information on Pedestrian Mobility around Work Zones, see Director's Rule 10-2015.

This sidewalk is blocked by a temporary no park A frame sign.
 
This video educates people working in the right of way on the importance of maintaining access. Learn more about Right-of-Way (ROW) Construction on our website.

Learn more about sidewalk café guidelines and the challenges of barriers such as umbrellas, a frame signs, tables, and chairs in this video.

Visit Seattle Public Utilities Side Sewer Info & Responsibilities website to learn more about taking care of your sewer pipe and troubleshooting. Check out these helpful guides on reducing clogs and backups in the sewer system: What to Flush, and Fats, Oils, & Grease. Here's more information about how businesses can obtain free pollution prevention Spill Kits and plans to comply with stormwater regulations.

Researching Sidewalk Issues

The Sidewalk Research and Maintenance Activities Web Applications are available on our Interactive Maps site, along with the Seattle Accessibility Route Planner and the SDOT Assets Map . If you'd like to learn more about the asset data, create your own maps, or further interact with the data, see our GIS Open Data Portal.

If you have questions about these maps or find data errors, contact us at SDOTAssets@seattle.gov with the location and asset identifier along with the incorrect or missing information.

 
The purpose of the Sidewalk Research map is to provide a platform for people to research sidewalk observations and related data such as street trees, side sewers, waterlines, and property ownership. 
 
At the top left of the application is a search bar with a magnifying glass.  Enter addresses, asset IDs, external reference numbers from Find It, Fix It app requests, or places within the Seattle City limits, and the maps will navigate to that location. The plus and minus icons in the upper left are used to zoom in and out on the screen. Click on the features in the interactive maps to display attribute information in a pop-up. The data can also be viewed in the attribute table located at the bottom of each map.  Data in the table can be exported to an excel spreadsheet using the “Options” drop-down menu. The About widget (shown below) provides guidance on how to navigate the application as well.

About widget icon

There are several layers that can be turned on and off in the Sidewalk Research application.

  • The Trees layer is symbolized by tree ownership. Click on the different color circles to find out more information on the species types, sizes, and when we last visited the tree in the pop-up menu. 
  • Sidewalk Observation data is symbolized by observation type.  Click on the points to see data about that specific observation such as inspection date, type of observation, and nearest parcel ID number.  We correct or update observation data when we are notified of sidewalk repairs performed by our crews or capital, private, and utility projects.
  • Unimproved Sidewalks displays where sidewalks are missing. 
  • Sidewalk asset data is symbolized by condition.  To learn more about how the data was collected starting in 2017, see the Sidewalk Assessment & Conditions StoryMap within this Sidewalk Guide.
  • Curb Ramps are symbolized by condition and category.
  • The Side Sewers and Laterals and Water Services SPU and Private layers display water and drainage services below ground.  

These layers, which are updated weekly along with metadata, can be accessed on the City’s Open Data website in a tabular CSV format, for text-based searching, along with other formats used in mapping applications. For more information on our Sidewalk Repair Program, view our Maintenance StoryMap.
 
Have you fixed your sidewalk? Use the sidewalk research map to identify the sidewalk information then send us an email to SDOTAssets@seattle.gov and include the property address, observation ID, permit number, and images of the sidewalk area that has been repaired.  

The purpose of the Maintenance Activities map is to provide a platform for viewing and searching sidewalk maintenance activities. 

At the top left of the application is a search bar with a magnifying glass.  Enter addresses, asset IDs, external reference numbers from Find It, Fix It app requests, or places within the Seattle City limits, and the maps will navigate to that location. The plus and minus icons in the upper left are used to zoom in and out on the screen. Click on the features in the interactive maps to display attribute information in a pop-up. The data can also be viewed in the attribute table located at the bottom of each map.  Data in the table can be exported to an excel spreadsheet using the “Options” drop-down menu. The About widget (shown below) provides guidance on how to navigate the application as well.

About widget icon

There are several work order layers that can be turned on and off in the application.

  • If the sidewalk is uplifted no more than approximately 1.75 inches, we can bevel, or grind, the difference to create a level surface. Bevels are temporary in nature and help mitigate these locations.
  • We place asphalt shims over sidewalk cracks and uplifts. These “shims” are temporary in nature and help to make the damaged area safer for pedestrians before long term repairs can be made. 
  • Sidewalk and curb ramp repairs are more permanent and typically involve full panel replacement or curb construction. 

These layers, along with metadata, can be accessed on the City’s Open Data website in a tabular CSV format, for text-based searching, along with other formats used in mapping applications.

For more information on our Sidewalk Repair Program, view our Maintenance Program StoryMap.  

Tree Maintenance

Prior to pruning tree roots and limbs greater than 2 inches in diameter, or any major pruning that comprises more than 15% of the foliage bearing area, you must arrange for a permit and contact an SDOT arborist to evaluate how the pruning will impact the tree's health and public safety. Visit our Street Tree Permits website or Call 206-684-TREE (8733).  
  
The Sidewalk Research and SDOT Assets Map Web Applications are available on our  Interactive Maps site. These maps include ownership information on Seattle’s Street Trees. Click on the different color circles to find out more information on the tree ownership, species types, sizes, and when we last visited the tree in the popup menu. Use the magnifying glass in the upper left to search on an address or place or the plus and minus icons in the bottom right to zoom in and out on the screen.   
 
The street tree data  can be accessed on the City's Open Data site in a tabular CSV format, for text based searching, along with other formats used in mapping applications. 

To learn more about Seattle's street trees and the urban canopy, visit our Street Tree StoryMap. Visit the Seattle Public Utilities Side Sewer Info & Responsibilities website to learn more about taking care of your sewer pipe and troubleshooting tree root issues. Check out these helpful guides on reducing clogs and backups in the sewer system: What to Flush, and Fats, Oils, & Grease.

How the City Prioritizes Sidewalk Maintenance and Installation

Our maintenance approach prioritizes sidewalk repairs and spot treatments based on mobility impacts, risk, cost, and usage along with geographic and equity factors. We also work with other capital projects that are adjacent to sidewalks in need of repair. The goal is to provide the best value to the community given a limited repair budget.  

Each sidewalk is scored in four different categories: risk, mobility impairment, cost, and usage. Risk weighs the potential injury risk to sidewalk users. Mobility impairment captures the difficulty to users with limited walking abilities. We estimate the potential cost to correct the sidewalk condition. Usage score estimates the number and purpose of sidewalk users.  Sidewalks that are in proximity of important and high demand facilities, include government facilities (community centers, libraries, parks, social services), health services/hospitals, transit stations and corridors, employment centers, schools, and senior/disabled housing.   

For more information, visit the Sidewalk Repair Program, Maintenance Program, and the 2020 University of Washington Evans School Policy Recommendations for Sidewalk Repair in Seattle Report.

To view work in progress and closed work orders, see our Sidewalk Maintenance Activities Web Application.

Most sidewalks in Seattle were built at the time each area was originally subdivided and were paid for through Local Improvement Districts (LIDs), along with each development’s roads, sewers, and water service.  Not all developers chose to build sidewalks.  Areas annexed to the city in the 1950s used the standards of unincorporated King County, which did not require sidewalks.   
 
The Sidewalk Development Program uses prioritization criteria established in the Pedestrian Master Plan (PMP).

  • Funding for new sidewalks in Seattle currently comes from a variety of sources, including:
  • Sidewalk Development Program 
  • Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program 
  • Neighborhood Street Fund
  • Capital projects 
  • School Speed Camera Proceeds
  • Private development 
  • Other agencies  

Projects funded through the Safe Routes to School program are prioritized the same way. The Neighborhood Street Fund program applications are prioritized by the community, then voted on by community members in each Council District. Final project selection is done through the Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee. 

Larger projects that impact sidewalks are added to our Project and Construction Coordination Map.
 
See our New Sidewalks & Walkways StoryMap for more info.  

Getting Involved

Seattle has some great ways to get involved whether you want to join a board, clean up vegetation in your neighborhood, or let us know when you’ve repaired your sidewalk.

Keep Seattle streets and sidewalks litter-free by participating in Adopt-a-Street or Spring Clean.

Adopt-a-Street is Seattle's grassroots litter-removal program. Join the thousands of volunteers who clean up hundreds of miles of Seattle's city streets and sidewalks.

For a few ideas on clearing leaves and preparing for winter weather, see our SDOT Blog: The leaves are falling and autumn is officially here! It's time to clear our sidewalks and start preparing for winter weather  and the Seattle Greenways blog Volunteers Clear Sidewalks and Bike Lanes in South Seattle. The latter article covers how volunteers from Rainier Valley Greenways-Safe Streets and Beacon Hill Safe Streets organized a work party to remove debris and overgrown vines from our sidewalks, clear out drains, and clean debris off curb ramps and bike lanes in several locations.

Have you fixed your sidewalk? Use the Sidewalk Research map to identify the sidewalk information then send us an email to  SDOTAssets@seattle.gov and include the property address, observation ID, permit number, and images of the sidewalk area that has been repaired.

In addition to participating in the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board, The City of Seattle has several programs that work with our communities to identify sidewalk network opportunities: 

Sidewalk History and Asset Conditions

Our 2017 Sidewalk Assessment looked at issues on our sidewalks to identify system-wide repair needs; recommend funding for proactive repairs; increase awareness of sidewalk maintenance needs; enact a sidewalk inspection and enforcement program; respond to claims and support litigation efforts; take advantage of funding opportunities; and inform property owners on responsibility. 

Following the assessment, the sidewalk maintenance budget increased, and we began prioritizing a citywide approach to address the observations. Our maintenance approach now prioritizes sidewalk repairs and mitigation based on mobility impacts, risk, cost, and usage along with geographic and social justice distribution, while leveraging other capital projects adjacent to sidewalks in need of repair. The goal is to provide the best value to the community given a limited repair budget.

See our Sidewalk Assessment & Conditions StoryMap and Equity section to learn more.

Equity

Transportation must meet the needs of communities of color and those of all incomes, abilities, and ages. We are partnering with our communities to build a racially equitable and socially just transportation system.  We seek to address historic disparities in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities by directing resources to underserved communities and supporting authentic engagement.

Communities of color, low-income communities, immigrant and refugee communities, people with disabilities, and people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity tend to live, work, play, and learn in concentrated areas, including often formerly redlined neighborhoods, or have been displaced to areas where barriers to safe, environmentally sustainable, accessible, and affordable transportation and housing among other race-based socio-economic disparities persist. 

When customer requests are the primary driver for new and maintained infrastructure, wealthier parts of Seattle may have better quality and more assets due to these historical service inequities and disproportionate community wealth. We must ensure that our transportation system meets the needs of everyone.  

Evaluating equity requires data about people and places that are historically impacted, presently, and in the future.  We use our data to analyze identify disparities in infrastructure and services, prioritize investments with an equity lens, and to improve the deployment of maintenance activities.

Our data include asset condition, attributes, and other regularly updated information that supports equity analysis by location.  We use asset data attributes such as type, size, age, condition, and planned infrastructure to analyze asset condition over time, performance, risk implications, and service to distribute repair and replacement strategies more equitably.  The data can show locations where infrastructure condition ratings are low but equity priority is high, or how past work was done  across the city.

In 2021, the City Auditor evaluated Seattle's Sidewalk Maintenance and Repair Program. Read the report and see the section "How the City Prioritizes Sidewalk Maintenance and Installation" to learn more how we use an equity lens to maintain and repair Seattle's sidewalks. For more information on our Sidewalk Repair Program, visit our Maintenance Program StoryMap.

Accessibility

For people using wheeled devices, it can be hard get around the city when vegetation and obstructions limit sidewalk access to less than 36”.  Snow and ice accumulation mean even more challenges for people using wheeled devices. Below are some resources and examples on how you can improve sidewalk access and conditions for all users.

For more info, visit the Sidewalk Repair Program, see the Sidewalk Repair Policy Report, and visit our New Sidewalks & Walkways StoryMap to learn more about our missing sidewalks and our projects.

If you would like more info or to make an ADA request, visit our SDOT ADA Program website.

Don't Snow Us In: Shovel your sidewalk so everyone can get around safely

Construction Site Access: It's Important for Everyone! 

Bike Share Parking: Do the Right Thing! 

Don't Block the Way: Understanding Sidewalk Cafe Guidelines

There are some helpful ways to maintain sidewalk access during construction. Be sure to provide paths that are clear of signage and debris, use sturdy barriers, include ramps, and verify construction fencing provides enough width for access.

Temporary obstructions, such as the sandwich board seen below, make it hard for people in wheeled devices to access a sidewalk. For more information on Pedestrian Mobility around Work Zones, see Director's Rule 10-2015.

This sidewalk is blocked by a temporary no park A frame sign.
 
This video educates people working in the right of way on the importance of maintaining access. Learn more about Right-of-Way (ROW) Construction on our website.

Finding a Code or Regulation

Seattle’s sidewalk design, construction, and maintenance activities are guided by Seattle Municipal Codes (SMC), Director’s rules, and other policy documents. Below are a list of related codes and regulations.

Videos about Sidewalk Challenges

We worked with Rooted in Rights to produce a series of videos on maintaining access to our sidewalks.  Here are some tips on how you can help.

Don't Snow Us In: Shovel your sidewalk so everyone can get around safely

Construction Site Access: It's Important for Everyone! 

Bike Share Parking: Do the Right Thing! 

Don't Block the Way: Understanding Sidewalk Cafe Guidelines

Sidewalk Resources and Program Weblinks

Below is a list of all the programs and resources included in the Seattle Sidewalk Guide.

Seeking Assistance?

The City of Seattle has several programs to available to help obtain services and improve access to sidewalks.

Our SDOT ADA Program is responsible for the planning, design, and implementation of improvements requested by the public to enable those living with disabilities equivalent access to pedestrian assets in Seattle. These improvements include curb ramps, accessible pedestrian signals (APS), and new technology evaluations. If you would like for more information or to make an ADA request, visit the SDOT ADA Program website.

In 2016, Seattle joined the World Health Organization and AARP designated Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. Age-friendly cities are characterized by outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; social participation; respect and social inclusion; civic participation and employment; communication and information and community support and health services.  Want to learn more about the programs? Visit Age Friendly Seattle or contact us through e-mail agefriendly@seattle.gov

Contact  Community Living Connections  or call 1 (844) 348-5464 to get free, objective, confidential information about community resources and service options.

The Home Repair Program provides affordable loans to income-qualified homeowners to address critical health, safety, and structural issues.

Visit Seattle Public Utilities Side Sewer Info & Responsibilities website to learn more about taking care of your sewer pipe and troubleshooting. Check out these helpful guides on reducing clogs and backups in the sewer system: What to Flush, and Fats, Oils, & Grease. Here's more information about how businesses can obtain free pollution prevention Spill Kits and plans to comply with stormwater regulations.

The Utility Discount Program provides bill assistance for seniors, persons with disabilities, and low-income customers.

King County Wastewater Treatment Division and Seattle Public Utilities are working together to bring Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) to our neighborhoods and manage rainwater runoff naturally. Visit the RainWise Program to learn more.

Seattle Public Utilities offers free water-saving toilets for income-qualified homeowners.  

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