Sometimes streetscaping projects by the City use lots of bricks or other paving blocks to enhance the sidewalk experience. Other times they use good ole’ concrete.
I have mixed feelings about both. The biggest advantage of concrete is that it begs to be trowelled off level. No matter how crude the installation, or unskilled or careless the crew, the finished walk is usually usable. In other words, it’s a forgiving substance.
Pavers look nice, but because each one is small they are subject to being laid with an uneven surface. Pavers have the advantage of being removable and relayable after disruption.
When pavers first came out, the City realized that each project was using pieces of a different pattern, which made repairs hard to do since the manufacturers continually introduce new paver designs and retire the old. So they spec’d everything had to be done with plain old brick shapes. But for the last few years it has been “anything goes” once again, but they vary the paver pattern every half block, so that when a new design in introduced during a repair it is less noticeable. Sort of like repairing grandma’s patchwork quilt. Somerset, Richmond Road, Preston … all have multiple paver designs over their main streets.
I’m critical of the crosswalks used along Wellington/Richmond, as they are black pavers that don’t stand out of the asphalt road. White crosswalk lines have to be repainted. Along Preston, light pavers were used, with “brighter” white stones to mark the crosswalk lines without repainting.
Crosswalks can only be so wide, according to city practice, but along Preston an additional brick band outside the crosswalk lines makes the crosswalks seem much more generous. Clever.
When the crosswalk crosses the busy main streets (rather than crossing the quieter side streets) the city switches to all-concrete crosswalks. We first tried these out on the Bank Street reconstruction 30 years ago, and repairs were disastrously poor. For Somerset going through Chinatown, I look forward to seeing new two-toned concrete sidewalks going in shortly. They’ll be a concrete version of the zebra crosswalks.
But back to maintenance: Bridgehead is building their new coffee shop and roastery at Anderson/Preston in a heritage building. New sewer work necessitated cutting through the Preston crosswalks. The crews relaid the crosswalk pavers, but mixed the “white edgers” in at random with the rest, and “lost” all the angled cut zones along the curb. Presumably these contractors will be rushing back as construction winds up to fix the crosswalk properly.