Independence Day weekend is behind us already. We hope that you enjoyed it and were able to partake in some of the celebrations with fireworks. Cambridge has put its five-year Sidewalk and Street Reconstruction Plan on line. The plan is clear and the drawings were well done.
Unfortunately, it looks like Cambridge is committed to allowing bricks to remain only in historic areas. Elsewhere, the City plans to install brick only as a decorative feature on the fringe of concrete sidewalks or in construction sites where the resident and/or business owner states his/her desire to install brick as an alternative to concrete and is willing to pay an extra cost.
Streets where the City has recently implemented the brick-on-the-margin-of-sidewalks approach are Broadway and parts of Mass Avenue. Although a better look than all concrete, Cambridge is missing the point.
In ongoing conversations I am having with disabled folks in and around Cambridge, I have learned many are for brick as a material as long it is installed correctly and maintained. Some have even commented that wire-cut brick gives a superior ride to concrete on sidewalks. Of course others favor concrete apparently unaware of the problems inherent in use of concrete: rapid deterioration in harsh New England weather resulting in pitting and crumbling and/or the tendency for slabs to be up-thrust several inches by tree roots or frost heaves.
In addition, according to what I have been told, concrete performs best when it has saw-cut rather than hand-formed grooves, which create a bumpier ride for wheeled mobility devices. Budget limitations have resulted in not following best practice and have also reduced the number of inspectors who might have caught and corrected the problem
On a related matter, there was a study done by the University of Pittsburgh which has been mentioned in this blog previously (which showed wire-cut brick lasts longer and rides smoother than concrete) that some in the disabled community say was funded by the Brick Industry. Totally untrue.. I checked this fact about two years ago with Dr. Jon Pearlman who was the lead person on the research. The brick industry funded less than 10%. But once incorrect information is in the public domain, it is difficult for the truth to displace it..
We all want safe sidewalks for public use. CBC does not advocate compromising safety, especially for the disabled, but strongly believes the City can maintain its historic brick sidewalk legacy by changing its sidewalk plan to encourage the use of wire-cut brick wherever concrete is now specified. CBC would particularly want to discourage the City’s recent practice of ripping out legacy brick sidewalks and replacing them with a pale imitation: concrete with a fringe of brick.
Our brick sidewalks distinguish Cambridge from other American cities by reflecting times long past and subtly connecting present Cantabridgians with that past.
Here are two examples of dysfunction in the current plan. On Lexington Avenue, Cambridge, sidewalks were re-constructed in concrete two years ago. After the installation It took less than 12 months for the concrete to pit and lift (called chipping.)
Separately, we were contacted by a person who wanted brick in the Huron Avenue area which has been under construction for some time. He was told it was too late to change anything. It is difficult, if not impossible, for a resident to get ahead of the decisions on materials for these projects. DPW makes the decisions on materials and it has chosen concrete in all areas they control.
In order to change materials, we need to hear from people who want to see change. Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope your 4th was a good one!