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California Building Code Excerpt

Section 11B-403 Walking Surfaces

Code excerpt regarding technical requirements for walking surfaces: general, floor or ground surface, slope, changes in level, clearances, handrails, and continuous gradient.

11B-403 Walking surfaces

11B-403.1 General. Walking surfaces that are part of an accessible route shall comply with Section 11B-403.

The following provisions only apply to walking surfaces that are part of an accessible route. Components of an accessible route are identified by Section 11B-402.2. Some elements that can be generally described as “walking surfaces” (such as stair landings) may not be considered “accessible routes” and subject to this section; however, other sections of the code may establish requirements for purposes other than accessibility (such as features of stair landings).

11B-403.2 Floor or ground surface. Floor or ground surfaces shall comply with Section 11B-302

11B-403.3 Slope. The running slope of walking surfaces shall not be steeper than 1:20. The cross slope of walking surfaces shall not be steeper than 1:48.

Exception: The running slope of sidewalks shall not exceed the general grade established for the adjacent street or highway.

Advisory 11B-403.3 Slope. There is an important distinction between a “sidewalk” and a “walk”, and they are treated differently under the California Building Code. A sidewalk is contiguous to a street while a walk is not.  When the running slope of a walking surface exceeds 5%, it must comply with the accessibility requirements for ramps.  A sloping sidewalk with a running slope in excess of 5% is excluded from ramp requirements for landings and handrails but it must comply with cross-slope and width requirements.

11B-403.4 Changes in level. Changes in level shall comply with Section 11B-303.

11B-403.5 Clearances. Walking surfaces shall provide clearances complying with Section 11B-403.5.

Exception: Within employee work areas, clearances on common use circulation paths shall be permitted to be decreased by work area equipment provided that the decrease is essential to the function of the work being performed.

11B-403.5.1 Clear width. Except as provided in Sections 11B-403.5.2 and 11B-403.5.3, the clear width of walking surfaces shall be 36 inches (914 mm) minimum.


  1. The clear width shall be permitted to be reduced to 32 inches (813 mm) minimum for a length of 24 inches (610 mm) maximum provided that reduced width segments are separated by segments that are at 48 inches (1219 mm) long minimum and 36 inches (914 mm) wide minimum.
  2. The clear width for walking surfaces in corridors serving an occupant load of 10 or more shall be 44 inches (1118 mm) minimum.
  3. The clear width for sidewalks and walks shall be 48 inches (1219 mm) minimum. When, because of right-of-way restrictions, natural barriers or other existing conditions, the enforcing agency determines that compliance with the 48-inch (1219 mm) clear sidewalk width would create an unreasonable hardship, the clear width may be reduced to 36 inches (914 mm).
  4. The clear width for aisles shall be 36 inches (914 mm) minimum if serving elements on only one side, and 44 inches (1118 mm) minimum if serving elements on both sides.
  5. The clear width for accessible routes to accessible toilet compartments shall be 44 inches (1118 mm) except for door-opening widths and door swings.

This section establishes minimum clear widths for any walking surface that is part of an accessible route (as scoped by Section 11B-403.1). The ADA Standards only require 36″ minimum width for all walking surfaces, but Califoria significantly amends this provision to increase the minimum width requirements for specific types of elements: corridors with occupant loads of 10 or more (44″), sidewalks and walks (48″), aisles serving elements on both sides (44″), and accessible routes to accessible toilet compartments (44″).  It is unlcear if the general ADA Standards’ Exception 1 can be applied to the specific California Exceptions 2 through 5; “stacking exceptions” is generally unacceptable unless specifically identified as being applicable.

Figure 11B-403.5.1 Clear Width of an Accessible Route
Figure 11B-403.5.1 Clear Width of an Accessible Route

11B-403.5.2 Clear width at turn. Where the accessible route makes a 180 degree turn around an element which is less than 48 inches (1219 mm) wide, clear width shall be 42 inches (1067 mm) minimum approaching the turn, 48 inches (1219 mm) minimum at the turn and 42 inches (1067 mm) minimum leaving the turn.

Exception: Where the clear width at the turn is 60 inches (1524 mm) minimum compliance with Section 11B-403.5.2 shall not be required.

Figure 11B-403.5.2 Clear Width at Turn
Figure 11B-403.5.2 Clear Width at Turn

11B-403.5.3 Passing spaces. An accessible route with a clear width less than 60 inches (1524 mm) shall provide passing spaces at intervals of 200 feet (60,960 mm) maximum. Passing spaces shall be either: a space 60 inches (1524 mm) minimum by 60 inches (1524 mm) minimum; or, an intersection of two walking surfaces providng a T-shaped space complying with Section 11B-304.3.2 where the base and arms of the T-shaped space extend 48 inches (1219 mm) minimum beyond the intersection.

11B-403.6 Handrails. Where handrails are provided along walking surfaces with running slopes not steeper than 1:20 they shall comply with Section 11B-505.

Advisory 11B-403.6 Handrails. Handrails provided in elevator cabs and platform lifts, referred to as support rails in the California Building Code, are not required to comply with the requirements for handrails on walking surfaces.

11B-403.7 Continuous gradient. All walks with continuous gradients shall have resting areas, 60 inches (1524 mm) in length, at intervals of 400 feet (121,920 mm) maximum. The resting area shall be at least as wide as the walk. The slope of the resting area in all directions shall be 1:48 maximum.