Rubber Sidewalks Give the Bounce to Concrete
Rubber sidewalks are all grown up. Once perceived mainly as a safe surface for playgrounds, rubber sidewalks have developed into a means of preserving urban trees, reducing stormwater runoff, recycling tires, and curbing greenhouse gas emissions. A company called Rubbersidewalks (what else?) began installing the modular units in 2002, and its rubber sidewalk products now appear in almost 100 cities across the country. Even the U.S. military is getting into the act. Plans are in the works to install rubber sidewalks at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California, and they’re being promoted by the Pollution Prevention Program at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
The Benefits of Rubber Sidewalks for Urban Trees
Rubbersidewalks (the company, that is) attributes its core concept to Richard Valeriano, a senior public works inspector for the City of Santa Monica. The original idea behind a rubber sidewalk was to achieve a flexible surface that would reduce cracking around tree roots. In turn, that would reduce the need to cut or drastically trim trees with overgrown roots. Over the course of several years, city workers noticed that the rubber surface seemed to slow the growth of roots while providing the tree with sufficient water and oxygen, helping to mitigate the problem of root overgrowth at the source. The modular installation system also enables workers to remove sections of sidewalk to inspect tree roots, without the need for pavement-breaking equipment that could damage a tree.