When we think about public spaces, we often imagine large open areas such as squares and parks. The humble footpath is overlooked, although it is an equally if not more important public space for urban social life. Every day, most people will at some point use a footpath. Their ubiquity makes them a fundamental part of cities.
Due to their narrow form and seemingly undesigned nature, it is easy to neglect footpaths. Urban design research tends to favour the bigger picture of streets and streetscapes, or focus on architectural elements such as building forms and frontages. And planning policies tend to treat footpaths as road and transport assets, rather than as public space.
However, footpaths in urban areas support complex social systems and a wide variety of uses. They are a vital public space and deserve more attention in the planning and design of our cities.