Age-Friendly Street Design Toolkit

What makes a street age-friendly?

Age-friendly streets are spaces where older adults and youth can safely enjoy walking, socializing, and playing, and can benefit from fresh air and contact with nature. Some good questions to ask in determining if a street or system of streets is age-friendly include, "Would you send your grandparents or children to walk or bike to the nearest park? Across that intersection?"

Age-friendly environments include physical design for streets and public spaces. As stewards for roughly 27 percent of the city's land through streets and public right-of-way, the Seattle Department of Transportation recognizes the leadership role it can play in fostering a supportive and age-friendly city.

Pedestrian focus

Why does this toolkit have a pedestrian focus? Check out the age-friendly design resources to see how older and younger people get around. Everyone is a pedestrian at some point in their journey and barriers to walking can create streets that are hostile to both younger and older people. Age-Friendly street design should provide space for those who have a slower pace to be able to enjoy Seattle's streets.

People who take transit or bicycle also need pedestrian infrastructure at either end of their journey. Infrastructure for all ages and abilities for bicycle facilities and transit stops helps to make streets complete and are included, but pedestrian infrastructure is the focus for this toolkit.

The 2016 5-year American Community Survey estimates that the highest rates of growth in Seattle since 2010 are for adults aged 65-74 which reflects the aging of the baby boom population.

Seattle's specific challenges

All of these factors must be considered in the design of the public realm for older adults and children:

  • Seattle's steep slopes create challenges for walking and getting around.
  • Multiple water bodies mean our neighborhoods are disconnected, so we rely heavily on specific pinch points (mostly bridges and major arterials with fast moving vehicular traffic) to get people safely to and through many neighborhoods in the city.       
  • Seattle's northern location means there are relatively fewer daylight hours than most other cities across the U.S. during the winter.  
  • Seattle's rainy weather poses additional challenges for older adults and children who walk or roll (use mobility devices, bicycles, strollers, or any other wheeled device) to get around. Seattle experiences an average of 1561 rainy days a year, which is more than most cities across the U.S. 

Image of staircase with railing up a steep hill with trees and lights

1National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Seattle mean number of days with precipitation 0.01 inches or more January 1948 - December 2015.