The Chicago region’s new comprehensive plan, ON TO 2050, includes a recommendation to support the development of compact, walkable communities. The recommendation is based on recent surveys and home buying trends indicate a growing desire for mixed-use communities with walkable amenities in both urban and suburban areas, as well as research that shows walkability and density are important to support efficient transit services. However, during the development of ON TO 2050 it became clear that a critical component of the walkability analysis was missing — there was no regional data on sidewalks — until now.
Using the publicly available Illinois Roadway Information System highway data and Nearmap aerial imagery, CMAP staff recently analyzed approximately 30,000 miles of roads in Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, Kane, and McHenry counties to determine the existence of sidewalks on one or both sides of the street and whether there is a barrier between traffic and the sidewalk. The resulting dataset shows that the availability, quality, and safety of sidewalks around the region varies greatly. The final product, a database now publicly available on the CMAP Data Hub, is a tool that anyone can use to understand their community’s pedestrian infrastructure needs and that residents and leaders can use to prioritize sidewalk improvements in the future. You can view a simple interactive presentation of the inventory here.