Sidewalk to Street "Walkability" Ratio

We’ve been asked to create measures of communities that are “walkable” for several projects. While there is no standard definition of what makes a community “walkable”, and the definition of “walkability” can differ from person to person, we thought an indicator that explores the total length of available sidewalks relative to the total length of streets in a community could be a good place to start. In this blog post, we describe how we used open data from SPC and Allegheny County to create a new measure for how “walkable” a community is. We wanted to create a ratio of the length of a community’s sidewalks to the length of a community’s streets as a measure of pedestrian infrastructure. A ratio of 1 would mean that a community has an equal number of linear feet of sidewalks and streets. A ratio of about 2 would mean that a community has two linear feet of sidewalk for every linear foot of street. In other words, every street has a sidewalk on either side of it. In creating a measure of the ratio of streets to sidewalks, we had to do a little bit of data cleanup. Much of this was by trial and error, ground-truthing the data based on our personal experiences walking in different neighborhoods. Since street data was not shared as open data by many counties in our region either on PASDA or through the SPC open data portal, we limited our analysis of “walkability” to Allegheny County.

In looking at the sidewalk data table and map, we noticed that trails were included. While nice to have in the data, we wanted to exclude these two features from the ratio. We did this to avoid a situation where a community that had few sidewalks but was in the same blockgroup as a park with trails would get “credit” for being more “walkable” than it actually is according to our definition. We did this by removing all segments where “Trail” was in the “Type_Name” field.

We also used a similar tabular selection method to remove crosswalks from the sidewalk data “Type_Name”=”Crosswalk.” We kept the steps in the dataset along with the sidewalks.

In the street data obtained from Allegheny County’s GIS department, we felt like we should try to exclude limited-access highway segments from the analysis, since pedestrians are prohibited from using them, and their presence would have reduced the sidewalk/street ratio in communities where they are located. We did this by excluding street segments whose values in the “FCC” field (designating type of street) equaled “A11” or “A63.” We also removed trails from this dataset by excluding those classified as “H10.” Since documentation was sparse, we looked to see how these features were classified in the data to determine which codes to exclude.

After running the data initially, we also realized that excluding alleyways from the calculations also could improve the accuracy of our results. Some of the communities with substantial pedestrian infrastructure have alleyways, and including them would make them appear to be less-”walkable” in our indicator. We removed these from the dataset by removing records with a value of “Aly” or “Way” in the “St_Type” field. We also excluded streets where the word “Alley” appeared in the street name, or “St_Name” field.

The full methodology used for this dataset is captured in our blog post, and we have also included the sidewalk and street data used to create the ratio here as well.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Public Access Level Comment
Temporal Coverage 2021
Geographic Unit Census Block Group
Data Notes

Please refer to the blog post for more information in how this dataset was created.

Related Document(s)
Frequency - Data Change As Needed
Frequency - Publishing As Needed
Data Steward Bob Gradeck
Data Steward Email Bob Gradeck