Born in England, Appleyard studied first architecture, and later urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduation he taught at MIT for six years, and later at Berkley. He worked on neighbourhood design in Berkeley and Athens and city wide planning in San Francisco and Ciudad Guayana. He died in Athens in a car accident.
His 1981 book Livable Streets was described at the time by Grady Clay, the editor of the Landscape Architecture magazine, as "the most thorough and detailed work on urban streets to date". It contained a comparison of three streets of similar morphology in San Francisco, which had different levels of car traffic: one with 2,000 vehicles per day, the others with 8,000 respectively 16,000 vehicles per day. His empirical research demonstrated that residents of the street with low car traffic volume had three times more friends than those living on the street with high car traffic.
- The View from the Road, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1964.
- Planning a Pluralistic City, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1967.
- The Conservation of European Cities, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1979.
- Livable Streets, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1981
- Project for Public Spaces: Donald Appleyard, retrieved 29 September 2011
- Allan B. Jacobs, C.C. Cooper-Marcus and T.G. Dickert: "In Memoriam: Donald Appleyard, City and Regional Planning; Landscape Architecture: Berkeley", retrieved 29 September 2011
- The Writings of Donald Appleyard, in Places, Vol I, Nr.3
- Diagram of social interaction relative to car traffic from Livable streets, 1981
- Exposure of Appleyards findings
- Finding Aid to the Donald Appleyard Papers, 1954-1982, bulk 1966-1982, The Bancroft Library