Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Step Forward on Brick Pavers

People with a wide range of disabilities, including wheelchair users, people who use walkers and canes and people with balance problems and seizure disorders find pathways made from brick pavers to be dangerous and restrictive. That’s why I introduced a resolution banning the use of brick pavers in the public right of way in some instances.

We must make sure our community is open to every single member of it. By eliminating brick pavers, we will ensure access for people with disabilities to shopping, recreation and other aspects of community life.

People with limited mobility aren’t the only advocates for this plan, though. The County’s Department of Transportation says that brick paver surfaces are more difficult and costly to maintain than asphalt or concrete. Seniors, people who push baby strollers, and women who wear high heel shoes also have advocated in favor of the ban.

Under the plan, brick pavers will no longer be installed in pedestrian areas in the public right of way, though they may still be used as edge treatments and decorative elements. The plan exempts projects approved before today and does not apply to private residential properties.

The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee will take up this issue on March 9, and then the measure will go before the full Council, so there is plenty of time to weigh in on this issue. How do you feel about the use of brick pavers on public walkways?


eric said...

Mrs. Floreen, I'm afraid I'll have to disagree. Bethesda's brick sidewalks are in superb condition and entirely flush, though I'm sure they require some maintenance. The main downside to concrete sidewalks is that they are much uglier than bricks. I have seen numerous neighborhoods, particularly in DC, where concrete sidewalks and concrete alleys are replaced with brick; it's amazing how such a slight change can so vastly improve the appearance of street.

Furthermore, concrete sidewalks are also liable to buckling and cracking, especially around tree trunks.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if edging concrete walkways might preserve aesthetic appeal while avoiding the functional issues raised. That is, if brick or decorative pavers were to line the curb and buildings of commercial areas leaving a broad middle for expected use.

I have seen advertising for decorative asphalt tinted and stamped to give the appearance of brick. This may introduce the same problems as real brick, but the maintenance may be less costly.
I have not investigated all the merits and drawbacks.

Fritz Hirst said...

Take a look at neighbohood streets, and you will find many in disrepair -- potholes and elevation drops between asphalt edge and concrete gutter are commonplace. While I cannot speak for the experience of those who have had problems with brick pavers, the problems with existing neighborhood streets impact all pedestrians of every age and situation. The county's effort to tackle the maintenance backlog is a laudable first step, but council staff still finds it will take 40 years to address all neighborhood roads currently in need of repair. Let's get back to basics and reprioritize. For me, the real question is this -- If we don't have the funds to maintain what we've got, why are we even thinking about premium brick pavers which cost more to install and maintain? We don't need to ban anything if we've got our priorities straight in the first place.

pj said...

Ms. Floreen:

You are 100% on target -- bricks are often uneven and constitute a real trip hazard. The often rise with freeze/thaw, and are tossed up with tree roots.

This all makes it very difficult to navigate the sidewalks without having to stare down at you feet to try to keep from tripping.

The primary purpose of sidewalks should be for safe walking, and a smooth walking surface is the best.
If special treatment is needed, better to look to special treatments or larger concrete pavers in areas other than historic neighborhoods.

Peter Henry

Joseph said...

I would have to disagree with the premise that brick sidewalks are inherently the issue here.

I have encountered numerous instances where concrete sidewalks create a hazard while brick sidewalks are completely intact and easy to navigate.

A better approach would be to establish standards that provide for safety and durability both for initial installation and maintenance.

Brick sidewalks are far more environmentally friendly in terms of energy to produce, can be recycled and reused, can be taken up and replaced for utility work, etc.

I was on crutches for two months last year and found brick sidewalks for the most part in far better condition to navigate than concrete.

An interesting blog (not written by me) on this topic is http://www.oldlouisville.com/circa1900/brick-sidewalk.htm

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