In the Sunday GLOBE’s article, Kevin Cullen reported on a meeting held by the Beacon Hill Association. The article raised the issue of preserving the legacy of brickwalks in cities today. The Beacon Hill group would like to preserve the area’s brick walkways exactly as they are.
However, Mr. Cullen argued that this decision for brick preservation came from an elitist group who chose to ignore the needs of the city’s disabled. He failed to suggest a compromise in regards to installing brick ramps – instead of concrete ramps – that would accommodate the needs of the disabled. Instead, there seems to be no middle-ground for the Beacon Hill community – either have all brick walks without ramps or only concrete ramps.
Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy, Inc. (CBC), believes a middle ground exists that will satisfy both disabled and non-disabled. CBC would like to see consideration given to the proper design and installation of bricks so that walkways are safe for all. The American Disabilities Act provides instructions for the installation of such ramps. See www.access-board.gpv for standards on ramps in parts 4.7 and 4.8. Materials for construction are not specified, but notes that ramps must be stable, firm and slip resistant. Brick can be designed and set to comply.
Cambridge has already preserved much of its brick sidewalks. They represent a legacy while adding unique charm to the city. But in recent years, these brickwalks have been replaced with concrete and asphalt without consideration of those who care about the streets and the beauty of the brick that defines so much of Cambridge. With support, CBC hopes to assist Cambridge in caring for its sidewalks while maintaining a safe and pedestrian friendly space for all.
Instead of calling names, let’s think of balanced approaches to the concrete vs brick ramp issues for the disabled and non-disabled.
Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy, Inc.
Why we exist.
The Cambridge Brickwalk Conservancy, Inc., (CBC) was formed to preserve, maintain, and extend the traditional brick sidewalks in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The brick sidewalks represent a legacy of over 200 years duration and are a signature feature of Cambridge.
Regrettably 15 to 20 years ago the policy of City of Cambridge changed so that it no longer protected the brick sidewalks and began to replace fine brick sidewalks, especially the ramps, with concrete. These changes are not required or mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. And with a hard climate for any material, the budget did not support proper maintenance and the streets have become a patchwork of concrete, asphalt and brick.
The popular belief that concrete better supports the needs of the disabled is just that, a belief. Vibration studies at the University of Pittsburgh support brick as a better street material than concrete. The proper design, installation and maintenance of brick creates walkways that are functional both for both disabled and non-disabled pedestrians. A more balanced approach to sidewalk construction and maintenance can be effective in preserving the legacy of brick sidewalks in the City while also serving the needs of the disabled.