Smarter Sidewalks

By Charlie Nardozzi

As any gardener knows, the roots from trees growing along sidewalks or paved driveways can eventually cause the sidewalks to crack and heave. Municipalities in California have been experimenting with installing rubberized sidewalks instead of concrete to minimize the cost of maintenance and to protect tree roots.

Rubberized sidewalks are made from 100 percent recycled tires. They are installed like any brick or stone tile, and have a soil-grabbing bubble base that keeps them in place. These sidewalks allow water and oxygen to penetrate into the soil better than concrete sidewalks, and they are more flexible and resilient. The walkways come in a variety of colors that don't fade over time. Rubberized sidewalks are installed in modules that can be lifted and replaced as needed. The flexible material helps keep walkways level, so there's less chance of pedestrians tripping and falling on uneven ground.

Not only are rubberized sidewalks more adaptable and longer lasting than concrete, they are better for trees too. When tree roots crack and overturn a concrete walkway, construction workers invariably tear up the roots when repairing the walk. Under the rubberized sidewalks, tree roots grow slower and tend to branch more, making them easier to prune. Maintenance workers periodically remove the appropriate walkway section, trim the roots while they are still small, and replace the walkway with minimum damage to the tree.

Although mostly used in California, rubberized sidewalks are being tried in northern cities, such as New Rochelle, New York. Homeowners can now purchase rubberized sidewalks to use on their properties as well.

For more information on this new type of walkways, go to: Rubber Sidewalks.

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