The Hough neighborhood in Vancouver has recently switched to rubber sidewalks to solve the problem of sidewalk uplift from their large, old trees. Sidewalk uplift causes frequent, costly repairs and can be a tripping hazard. The co-chair for the Hough Neighborhood Association, Melissa Tiefenthaler, started looking at the rubber sidewalk option after the topic of sidewalk repair kept cropping up during neighborhood discussions.
Tiefenthaler applied for and received a grant to help pay for a demonstration project on one of Hough’s streets. She said the grant was approved because one of the benefits to keeping the trees is their calming effect on drivers – who usually slow down from a perceived effect that the street is narrower than it actually is.
Another benefit to the rubber sidewalks is decreasing storm runoff. This is because the recycled material in the sidewalks allows nearly 98 inches of rainwater to seep into the ground beneath the sidewalk. This water absorption allows tree roots to grow more deeply, reducing the risk of cracking or upheaval. These sidewalks also can be easily removed to prune tree roots and switch out one block of the sidewalk, instead of replacing an entire sidewalk.
With the new sidewalk in place, the city is watching to see how it holds up over time. In the long run, the city may make the rubber a standard sidewalk material.