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Sidewalk zones, activating sidewalks in front of a business or residence

Overview of sidewalk zones, the purpose of each zone, and how to activate the sidewalk with furnishings and other amenities. Updated by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT).
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Overview of the Sidewalk Corridor 

The Pedestrian Design Guide is the city's guiding document for the pedestrian realm, including the sidewalk. 

The sidewalk corridor consists of three zones – the Pedestrian Through Zone, the Furnishing Zone, and the Frontage Zone (see Figure B-2). The intent and purpose of each of these zones are discussed in detail in the Pedestrian Design Guide. Table B-3 (Pedestrian Design Guide page 14) provides the required minimum widths for each zone according to Street Design Classification, as identified in the Transportation System Plan.

This graphic shows the three zones of the sidewalk, which include the frontage zone, the pedestrian through zone, and the furnishing zone.

The Frontage Zone is the area next to the Pedestrian Through Zone that is abutting or adjacent to the private property line. This zone allows pedestrians a comfortable shy distance from building fronts in areas where buildings are at the lot line or from elements such as fences and hedges on private property.

The Pedestrian Through Zone is the area of the sidewalk corridor intended for pedestrian travel. The Pedestrian Through Zone should be entirely free of above-ground permanent and temporary objects in order to provide an obstruction-free, continuous corridor for people to travel.

The Furnishing Zone buffers pedestrians from the adjacent roadway and is where sidewalk infrastructure such as street trees, driveway approaches, signal poles, utility poles, streetlights, controller boxes, stormwater management, bicycle parking, hydrants, signs, parking meters, driveway aprons, grates, and street furniture such as benches should be located. This is also the area where people exit from parked cars on the street.

Activating the Furnishing Zone

The Furnishing Zone provides pedestrian access to and from the street to the adjacent property, and is the primary and preferred place in sidewalk corridors for utilities, street furniture, café tables, bike parking, hydrants, traffic signal cabinets, stormwater facilities, water, new mobility services, electric vehicle charging stations, parking meters, and other sidewalk corridor elements. By placing these functions in the Furnishing Zone, they are easy to access, yet do not impede the continuous movement of pedestrians or vehicles.

A graphic showing a full block, with some select information about elements that can be placed in the furnishing zone (planters, bike racks, trees, and benches) for sidewalk activation.

Common Sidewalk Activation Strategies & Clearance Requirements

PBOT has developed a series of graphics to illustrate strategies that businesses or individuals can take to activate the sidewalk in front of their property. Some of the elements described in the graphics below need a permit, while others don't. More information can be found here: Encroachment Permits |

The Common Sidewalk Activation Strategies & Clearance Requirements graphic provides an overview of possible elements that can go in the Furnishing Zone, as well as the physical clearance requirements necessary for each element.

The Example of Full Block with No On Street Parking graphic illustrates how the Furnishing Zone can be activated when there is no on street parking. A more intensive activation of the Furnishing Zone may be provided since movement between the street and the sidewalk isn't necessary. This includes when there is a bus lane or bike lane adjacent to the curb.

The Example of Full Block Next to On Street Parking graphic illustrates a situation where there is on street parking adjacent to the curb. Access must be kept between the street and the sidewalk for parked and loading/unloading vehicles. Therefore, a less intensive activation of the Furnishing Zone is allowed. This graphic provides an example of Furnishing Zone elements and placement next to on street parking.

The Example of Neighborhood Context With On Street Parking graphic provides an example of Furnishing Zone elements and their placement next to on street parking where commercial uses meet residential neighborhoods.