Typicial sidewalk requirements in the City of Buffalo are for a walking surface about 4 feet wide, with a depth of concrete of about four inches. This is poured over a gravel base. This design is not up to Buffalo winters, nor is it, in width, up to facilitating a pleasant walk by two people side by side in any weather. This harms neighborhood commercial areas and all the individuals who would like to, or must, walk along sidewalks. Planners contemplating new developments or redesigning old ones would help citizens, merchants, and the city as a whole by increasing pedestrian mobility through enhanced sidewalk standards. Citizens should advocvate for them.
Researchers in places as varied as Manhattan and Decatur, Illinois, have found that five feet is the minimum width a sidewalk in even an exclusively residential neighbrohood should be. This allows two people to walk abreast without crowding each other. Sidewalks should be seven feet wide to accomodate children at play where a number of households have young children. This allows them to ride their bikes, tricycles, Big Wheels or just walk and run around in self directed play without resorting to the roadway. With any sidewalk that abuts the curb, the 18 inches nect to the curb a rendered useless for pedestrians because of the edge itself (people instinctively avoid edges), parking meters, opening doors, etc.
Further, whether paved or not, the terrace (the area between the curb and the walkway) should be at least four feet wide to accomodate garbage bags, recycling bins, and snow banks of plowed and shoveled snow. Combined with the 18 inches directly next to a building, steps, etc. on the built side of a walkway which a walker also cannot effectively use, and you have a curb-to-streetwall minimum of 11 feet. Throw in the odd retail display, the opening of shop doors, etc., and the minimum building setback should be 12 feet. In commercial or mixed use zones, this should be 20 feet.
As pedestrians are the lifeblood of any neighnborhood, all effort must be made to accomodate them, with the realization that any impediment harms the less physically fit disproprtionately. Into this group fall the elderly and children. These people often hold "veto power" over others (e.g., others aged 16-60) in terms decision-making over leisure or workaday activity. Icy and snowclogged sidewalks bring a huge dropoff in pedestians (much pleasure walking simply ceases, while shopping trips convert to car, often to out-of-the-neighborhood chain stores). This could be mitigated by having sidewalks, particularly in mixed-use areas, built to accomodate and withstand mechanical snow and ice removal (e.g., the lawn tractor or small pick-up truck). This again would call for sidewalks with an unobstructed walkway (no sign posts, planters, restaurant patios, etc. of at least six feet. The thickness of the sidewalks must also be increased, as can be seen by the cracking at corners where city snowplows cross sidewalks, and cracking along parking lots, where snow removal is done typically by pick-ups.