Brick Streets as Traffic Calming: An Alternate Utopia

It’s no mistake that paving bricks are still in use today in cities around the world. Bricks are cheap to produce, incredibly resilient, and are a flexible paving medium. They conform to the geological shape of the road, and unlike concrete or asphalt, they don’t crack, they just settle. They’re bumpy and noisy to drive over, but this is nothing that a car can’t handle. Brick streets also tend to encourage slower speeds for this reason.

As a sidewalk surface, they’re terrible. Unless the bricks were laid or re-laid within the last decade, they tend to settle and bulge over holes and tree roots, and create a terribly inconsistent surface for walking. They’re even worse, sometimes impossible to traverse for anything with wheels – be it a bicycle, skateboard, wheelchair, or walker.

So what if we flipped the script? All sidewalks and sidepaths could be paved with concrete or asphalt and be perfectly contiguous, with curb cuts and lines of sight from one destination to another. And all streets could be paved with bricks. If we’re going to build the world for walking and cycling, we’ve got to start somewhere.