How to choose sidewalks for high-traffic public spaces

When it comes to designing public spaces, selecting the right sidewalks is crucial. With countless types of paving pavers available, each with its own unique characteristics, it’s important to ask the right questions to determine the best material for the job. Factors such as the location of the sidewalk (protected, exposed, wet level), level of traffic (low, medium, high), type of traffic (pedestrians, bicycles, light or heavy vehicles), and pre-existing conditions should all be taken into account. By considering these aspects, you can determine the pavement’s wear resistance, ensuring its durability and effectiveness.



Concrete is a popular choice for high-traffic areas due to its high strength and good mechanical resistance. High-performance concrete (HPC) is recommended for public use sites as it provides greater impermeability, less shrinkage, and increased durability. Additionally, concrete requires minimal cleaning and curing processes, making it easy to maintain.

Porcelain Tiles

Porcelain tiles

Porcelain tiles offer a wide range of designs, colors, and fillers, making them suitable for various purposes. They have low porosity and a relatively homogeneous structure, making them ideal for high-traffic areas. Opt for natural and non-slip finishes to ensure safety.

Ceramic Tile (Ceramic)

Ceramic tile

When selecting ceramic floors, consider the PEI index, which rates glazed ceramics based on their resistance to wear. For high-traffic areas, opt for tiles with a PEI 5 rating, suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. PEI 5 tiles are recommended for areas such as restaurants, shopping malls, and airports.

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Wooden sidewalks create a warm and welcoming environment, and they are often used in residential settings. When using wood for outdoor and community spaces, ensure the wood is of high quality and treated to resist weather conditions. Regular specialized maintenance every two years is essential to maintain its durability. Alternatively, PVC flooring can be considered as a cost-effective and low-maintenance alternative that resembles wood.

Natural Stone

Natural stone

Natural stone offers natural resistance and durability. Opt for rough finishing stones instead of fine ones to provide greater safety and prevent slipping. Natural stone is easy to clean and requires minimal maintenance. Different types of natural stone, such as Miracema, stone drainage, limestone, basalt, and granite, offer various benefits and cost-effectiveness for different settings.

Common Use

Colorful square

Combination of sand and gravel

Floor and road lighting

Green and water areas

In addition to the above options, there are other creative choices for high-traffic public spaces. Colorful squares, a combination of sand and gravel, floor and road lighting, and green and water areas can add visual appeal and functionality to the sidewalks, creating a more vibrant and accessible urban environment.

How Can Technology Help?

Technological solutions

Considering the contemporary challenges such as the climate crisis, designers can explore technological solutions beyond aesthetics and functionality. For example, bricks with increased carrying capacity and rainwater collection systems integrated into the sidewalks are innovative options. It’s also worth mentioning that heat absorption can be reduced through chilled pavement or the use of clear binders that increase reflectivity.

By carefully considering the specific requirements of high-traffic public spaces and exploring innovative solutions, you can create sidewalks that not only withstand heavy use but also contribute to the overall safety, accessibility, and sustainability of the urban environment.

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To learn more about sidewalk selection and other urban design topics, visit Caravansarai.