Where the (Concrete) Sidewalk Ends

When you think of sidewalks, you most likely think of concrete. Though it makes up the vast majority of sidewalks, concrete isn't the only game in town.

From bricks to cobblestones to recycled rubber, there are plenty of material options for sidewalks. But concrete is likely the cheapest.

"For most American cities, concrete is the go-to choice for building sidewalks. It's relatively cheap to install - only about $12 per square foot - and it's very solid. Its pale color reflects light, reducing nighttime illumination costs for cities compared to darker-hued alternatives. Plus, if adequately maintained, concrete can last up to eighty years.

Yet concrete also has its downsides: Manufacturing it has a high carbon footprint, since its fabrication requires the energy-intensive heating of limestone; it has a tendency to crack when tree routes grow underneath it; and it has no porosity, depriving the ground under it of essential ground water and increasing runoff problems."

Full Story: The Sidewalks of Today and Tomorrow: Is Concrete Our Only Option?



Attractive alternatives

Good riddance to 100% concrete sidewalks. Most end up looking sterile and dingy over time.

A resident here got creative with his concrete sidewalk, laying down slate edging and diamond shape slate inlays in the middle of his concrete, when he laid down new, wet concrete to repair the old, cracking sidewalk.

Many towns are now using a mix of concrete and colored pavers, or just pavers. Some brownish pavers look very sharp.

One older borough here has all slate sidewalks. They get torn up and moved up by tree trunks, but they are attractive.

but please not brick

I work in a historic area with brick sidewalks and they're terrible to walk on. I've twisted my ankles countless times- and I'm "only" 40. Snow clearing is difficult, and its a slippery surface in rain. Concrete is not glamourous, but it does the job best and provides the most stable surface to walk on.

Bricks as accents; Porous sidewalks

In one borough here, bricks are only used as accents on the side of the new, wider sidewalks and near tree plantings. Thus, the walking surface is concrete.

Porous sidewalks are very interesting because they reduce the universal problem of stormwater runoff. I haven't heard how they are as a walking surface, they can be as simple as using pavers.

All the paver sidewalks I've seen are new and there is no problem with tripping or twisting- that only seems to become a problem with the pavers or bricks if they get moved and uplifted (such as by tree roots.)

Pick an attractive paver color

And may I suggest that officials select attractive colors if pavers are chosen- a true red brick or light brown/medium brown.

Some communities are installing bright salmon colored pavers- people probably thought it would resemble regular brick, in hue, but they don't. These shades look fake and pretty ugly.

Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $25.

Stay thirsty, urbanists

These sturdy water bottles are eco-friendly and perfect for urbanists on the go.
Book cover of Unsprawl

Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places

Explore visionary, controversial and ultimately successful strategies for building people-centered places.
Starting at $12.95