Sidewalks

Sidewalks are an important part of our community's mobility and livability. In almost every situation, sidewalks are dedicated public rights of way. 

As of 2013, Vancouver's extensive street system included nearly 600 center-line miles of streets. In a survey done a few years prior, based on about 500 center-line miles of streets within the City, nearly 60 percent of the streets were reported to have sidewalks on at least one side. About 56 percent of arterial streets have sidewalks on both sides of the street, and another 18 percent have a sidewalk on one side. Nearly 40 percent of residential streets have sidewalks on both sides, while 15 percent have a sidewalk on one side.

Maintenance of sidewalks is the responsibility of abutting property owners. The property owner is also responsible for removing overgrown vegetation, snow and other obstructions on the sidewalk that affect pedestrian movement. Details can be found in the Vancouver Municipal Code (VMC) 11.030. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding sidewalks: 

Who is responsible for the repair and maintenance of sidewalks?
In almost every situation, sidewalks are dedicated public rights of way and the responsibility of abutting property owners. Just as in Vancouver, sidewalk ordinances typically impose the maintenance obligation on the abutting property owner. As dedicated public right of way, sidewalk construction requires a permit and adherence with regulations for work in the public right of way, including use of a licensed contractor.

What if the problem is caused by a nearby street tree?
Street trees are defined as trees in which the trunk is wholly or partially located within the right-of-way. According to Vancouver Municipal Code (VMC)12.004, a permit is required for planting, major pruning and removal of street trees. Learn more from the Vancouver Urban Forestry Web pages about street tree permits or contact Urban Forestry at 360-487-8308.

How does the City handle sidewalk concerns and issues?
With hundreds of miles of sidewalks in Vancouver, the City primarily responds to sidewalk maintenance issues on a citizen-driven basis. When a problem is reported, City staff visit the site. Upon evaluating and confirming an issue, the City attempts to work with the abutting property owner or owners to remedy the situation, providing information about the necessary steps and permits to help them get started. 

How is the City working to expand or improve sidewalks? 
All new transportation capital projects and new development must include ADA (Americans with Disability Act) improvements. Sidewalks and curbs in new construction are designed and built to comply with ADA requirements. Pavement management overlays include ADA improvements to curbs and ramps. In addition, a number of ADA accessibility projects have been made possible through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). These are especially important tools in older areas of the City, where sidewalks are aging, and in later annexed areas that were originally developed to more rural standards.

How can citizens, businesses and organizations help?
Help keep the sidewalk adjacent to your home, office or business site free of barriers or issues that can prevent safe use of the sidewalk by all. Trim bushes and other vegetation that extend onto or over the sidewalk. During severe winter weather, keep your sidewalks free from ice and snow. If you can, offer to lend your neighbors a helping hand with shoveling snow or trimming vegetation. Volunteer to help around the community!

What is the City’s ADA transition plan? How does that fit in the process?
Vancouver’s Draft ADA Transition Plan establishes the City’s ongoing commitment to providing equal access to all its public programs, services and activities for citizens with disabilities. This plan is to be used to help guide future planning and implementation of necessary accessibility improvements. Please click here to review the City’s draft ADA Transition Plan, including information regarding public streets.