Frequently asked questions

What is a ped shed?

Ped shed is short for pedestrian shed, the basic building block of walkable neighborhoods. A ped shed is the area encompassed by the walking distance from a town center, neighborhood center, or other location. Ped sheds are often defined as the area covered by a 5-minute walk (about 0.25 miles, 1,320 feet, or 400 meters). They may be drawn as perfect circles, but in practice ped sheds have irregular shapes because they cover the actual distance walked, not the straight-line distance. A synonym for ped shed is walkable catchment.

What is the definition of walkable?

  • Destinations close by. If people are going to walk, there have to be places to walk to. Walkable neighborhoods have a variety of destinations within walking distance. Destinations might include commercial establishments (such as everyday retail or office) or civic establishments (such as religious, nonprofit, or government). Destinations might also be civic spaces or transit stops.
  • Direct and convenient routes. Walkers don’t like to take long detours, so routes from place to place are relatively close to a straight line. That means small blocks and few or no dead ends. There are also plenty of alternate routes between any two places, which both reduce traffic bottlenecks and provide the variety that encourages walking.
  • Comfortable and interesting pedestrian ways. Pedestrian safety is greatest when vehicle speeds are low. On-street parking, trees, and other design elements are a buffer between pedestrians and traffic. Sidewalks are sized appropriately for the number of walkers. Buildings meet the street in such a way to make the “outdoor rooms” that are the mark of the best urban places. Building facades are human scale, with frequent doorways and windows, and attractive details and ornament. These design elements allow workers and residents to keep an eye on the street and respond to criminal activity; in addition, popular walking areas tend to be more safe than deserted areas.

What are streetscapes and frontages?

Urban designers use a precise lexicon to describe, design, and write codes for the streetscape, which is the major element of the public realm. The streetscape consists of the vehicular way and frontages. The streetscape layers are summarized by this diagram.


The three layers of streetscapes are: the private frontage, the public frontage, and the vehicular lanes.

  • The private frontage is the privately owned layer between the building facade and the lot line. Private frontages may include arcades, porches, stoops, fences, and yards.
  • The public frontage is the publicly owned layer between the lot line and the edge of the vehicular lanes. The public frontage may include sidewalks, street planters, trees and other vegetated landscaping, benches, lamp posts, and other street furniture. Synonyms: streetside or roadside.
  • The vehicular lanes are in the space from curb to curb (or, if there are no curbs, from pavement edge to pavement edge), including travel lanes and parking lanes. Synonyms: carriageway or cartway.

In some situations, such as historic streets with no setbacks or sidewalks, or in lanes and alleys, these three elements are not differentiated.

The public right-of-way (R.O.W.) is the combination of the vehicular lanes and the public frontage.

What is urban design?

Urban design is the art and science of creating urban places. It involves buildings, but focuses especially on “the spaces between buildings” including features such as roadways (boulevards, avenues, streets, alleys, etc.), frontages (sidewalks, street trees, arcades, awnings, yards, porches, stoops, etc.), civic space (squares, plazas, greens, parks, etc.), and overall placemaking (building placement, building types, mix of uses, lot patterns, block types, topography, vistas, etc.).

Urban designers work at a range of scales, from the individual lot, to blocks, to neighborhoods, to groups of neighborhoods, to entire cities and regions. Urban design is a field for generalists because it combines the expertise of many fields: architecture, landscape architecture, planning, engineering, development, construction, public administration, and policymaking. The participation and support of residents and other advocates is also needed for good urban design.