Street Furniture

Description

Public seating in New York City

Sidewalks should be continuous and should be part of a system that provides access to goods, services, transit, and homes. Well-designed walking environments are enhanced by urban design elements and street furniture, such as benches, bus shelters, trash receptacles, and water fountains. Walking areas should be interesting for pedestrians, provide a secure environment, should be well lit, and have good sightlines.

Sidewalks can be categorized by four zones: curb, furniture, pedestrian, and frontage. The curb zone provides a barrier from the street and a transition to the street from the sidewalk. The furniture zone is where all items that could potentially block pedestrian traffic should be placed. Poles, signposts, newspaper racks, and other obstacles that could block the path, obscure a driver or pedestrian's view, or become a tripping hazard should be placed in the furniture zone. Benches, water fountains, bicycle parking racks, and transit shelters should also be placed there. Another benefit of the furniture zone is that it provides a barrier between pedestrians and the street. The pedestrian zone is where pedestrians walk and should be at least 5 feet but preferably wider. Even wider pedestrian zones may be desirable in active areas with high volumes of pedestrian traffic. Lastly, the frontage zone provides a space between pedestrians and buildings. Pedestrians subconsciously move away from vertical faces, so the frontage zone is an important buffer area that prevents the pedestrian from feeling confined.

Benches along a sidewalk in Kirkland, Washington

Such areas must also be properly maintained and kept clear of debris, overgrown landscaping, tripping hazards, or areas where water accumulates. Snow removal is important for maintaining pedestrian safety and mobility. In most areas, local ordinances give property owners the responsibility of removing snow within 12 to 48 hours after a storm.

Purpose

Street furniture can enliven commercial districts by making sidewalks functional and pleasant places for pedestrians.

Considerations

  • Provide high-quality street furniture that will show that the community values its public spaces and is more cost-effective in the long run.
  • Include plans for landscape irrigation and maintenance at the outset.
  • Ensure proper placement of furniture; do not block pedestrian walkway or curb ramps or obstruct sightlines.
  • Ensure adequacy of overhead clearances and detectability of protruding objects for pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired.

Cost

Costs will vary depending on the design, style, manufacturer, and region. Benches range from approximately $220 to $5,700, with an average cost of $430. Bus Shelters can range from approximately $5,000 to $40,000, and street trees from $50 to $940. Trash and recycling receptacles range from approximately $300 to $3,200, with an average cost of $310. More detailed cost information can be found here.