Quick Stats

  • In 2020, Nanaimo had:
    • 522 km of roads
    • 445 km of sidewalks
    • 1,293 marked crosswalks
    • 53 pedestrian activated crosswalk-warning beacons.

Planning for Pedestrians

Nanaimo’s Official Community Plan, City Plan: Nanaimo Reimagined includes policies and targets that guide city planning for Nanaimo’s transportation system including pedestrian facilities. Here are a few highlights from the plan:

  • City Plan has a target to double the number of walking trips by the year 2041
  • The “Hierarchy of Mobility Modes” prioritizes walking and rolling over other modes of transportation.
  • Land Use Priority – Nanaimo’s Urban Centres are the highest priority for pedestrian infrastructure, as they have the highest density of services, jobs, and housing.
  • One of City Plan’s main goals is “A Connected Nanaimo”. This highlights how important it is for all parts of the transportation network to connect and work together.

Complete Streets

“Complete Streets” are streets designed to enable safe and comfortable use by all – including pedestrians – regardless of their age or ability.

In 2020, Nanaimo City Council adopted the City’s first "Complete Streets" road design standards 

Council's Pedestrian Infrastructure Improvement Funding

Nanaimo City Council dedicates $300,000 and more per year to a “Pedestrian Unallocated” fund. This money goes towards select pedestrian improvement projects throughout the city. These projects tend to be relatively small-scale and identified/delivered in the shorter term as opposed to the City’s Capital Projects which are normally planned out and funded years in advance. 

In past years, the pedestrian unallocated funding has been put towards pedestrian improvements such as crosswalk enhancements, accessibility improvements, and sidewalk infill. You can find information on many of these projects here: https://www.nanaimo.ca/your-government/projects/mobility-accessibility-improvement-upgrades

For even more info, below are staff reports regarding Pedestrian Unallocated projects.





Crosswalk Improvement Prioritization Tool

In 2021, Nanaimo City Council supported piloting a new tool to help prioritize crosswalk improvements in Nanaimo. This tool gives a score to each existing crosswalk in Nanaimo. Higher scores represent higher levels of priority for improvements.

Crosswalk scores are based on:

Risk Factors:

  • The posted speed limit
  • Volume of vehicles travelling on the road
  • Collision history
  • Length of the pedestrian crossing

Trip Generator Factors:

  • Within or near a City Centre, as designated in City Plan
  • WalkScore
  • Proximity to a transit stop, plus usage levels
  • Equity Analysis
  • Proximity to a school

This new tool is currently being trialed by the City as a pilot project. Before Council endorses it as a formal policy, the City will evaluate how it has been working during the pilot project, and will make changes and improvements to the tool as needed. 

So far, this tool has been used:

  • To help select the 2022 Pedestrian Unallocated Projects
  • As a reference when staff receive requests for improvements at specific crossings.

For more background information, check out the staff report from November 2021: https://pub-nanaimo.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=39288

Sidewalk FAQS

Why doesn’t Nanaimo have sidewalks on every road?

There are a few reasons why Nanaimo’s sidewalk network is incomplete

  • Historical development – At one time, Nanaimo was a much smaller city. In the 1970s, Nanaimo amalgamated with formerly rural areas including Harewood, Hammond Bay Road area and Jingle Pot Road area, to name a few. Many of the roads in these areas were built as rural roads without sidewalks before the City acquired them, and to this day the City is playing catch up.


  • Cost – Completing the sidewalk network is not as easy as just building the missing sidewalks. That is because one metre of sidewalk costs over $2000! If the City of Nanaimo were to build sidewalks along the all of roads that currently do not have them, it would currently cost $800 million – that is more than 26 times the typical annual budget for all transportation infrastructure, and more than the City collected in property taxes in 2022.

So how does the City get more sidewalks?

Because we cannot quickly build out the sidewalk network without breaking the bank, we have to be strategic.

  • Prioritizing - We have to ensure we are putting our limited resources towards projects that will have significant benefits. City Plan: Nanaimo Reimagined identifies Primary and Secondary Active Mobility Routes, and these are considered priorities for investment.  City Plan also supports considering safety, demand, and equity when prioritizing new pedestrian infrastructure.


  • Taking opportunities as they come up - There are times when sidewalks can be added for a smaller cost
    • With other infrastructure projects – when a sewer or water line is being replaced, it often requires a portion of the road to be dug up and then re-built. This can be a good opportunity to add new Complete Streets elements, including new sidewalks.
    • With private development – most larger developments are required to fund and construct “frontage works and services” along their property frontage. This includes sidewalks. Because developers are only obligated to construct works in front of the development property, this can create segments of sidewalks that end at the edge of the development property. We believe that it is better to get some sidewalk than none.

  • Installing low-budget alternatives that enhance pedestrian safety – while sidewalks are the “gold standard”, they are not the only way to enhance pedestrian safety. The City has used lower-cost measures, such as delineating bollards, to improve pedestrian safety at a greatly reduced cost.

My house has a sidewalk in front of it. What are my responsibilities?

The Nanaimo Traffic and Highways Bylaw No. 5000 requires that property owners and occupants (renters) clear snow, ice, and rubbish from sidewalks and footpaths bordering the property within 24 hours. It also requires that snow, ice, or rubbish be removed from rooftops when there is a danger of this falling on people who are using the sidewalk.

Please ensure that waste collection carts do not obstruct the sidewalk or bike lanes - both while stored, and on waste collection day. Carts blocking the sidewalk can be especially disruptive for pedestrians who use mobility devices.

More info on cart placement: [LS4] https://www.nanaimo.ca/city-services/garbage-recycling/cart-placement

Are bikes, kick-scooters, skateboards, roller blades/skates etc. allowed on sidewalks?

No. According to Bylaw No 5000, bicycles must stay on the roadway or in a bike lane. Kick scooters, skateboards, and roller blades/skates are not legally permitted on public roads (including sidewalks) in Nanaimo. These devices are normally permitted on multi-use paths, but always check the signs on-site to make sure.

People who use mobility devices such as mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs are pedestrians. These devices are allowed on sidewalks and anywhere else pedestrians travel.  

Last updated: March 6, 2024

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