Surface Treatments

Description

A wide pedestrian crossing that uses brick pavers

Paving materials are important to the function and look of a street, both in the road and on the sidewalk. Occasionally, paving materials in and of themselves act as a traffic-calming device (e.g., when the street is paved in brick or cobblestone). However, some of these materials may be noisy and unfriendly to bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchairs, or snowplow blades. In particular, cobblestones should not be used in the expected pedestrian or bicycle path, although they may be used as aesthetic elements in a streetscape design. Smooth travel surfaces are best for all pedestrians.

The pedestrian walkway material should be firm, planar, and slip-resistant. Concrete is the preferred walking surface. A different look can be achieved by using stamped concrete or concrete pavers, which are available in a variety of colors and shapes; however, jointed surfaces may induce vibration, which can be painful to some pedestrians. They can also be used on the top of raised devices.

It is important to ensure crosswalk visibility. High visibility markings are often best. Textured crosswalks should be marked with reflective lines since these types of crosswalks are not as visible, especially at night or on rainy days.

Colored paving can enhance the function of portions of the roadway, such as a colored bicycle lane. This can create the perception of street narrowing, in addition to enhancing the travel facility for bicyclists.

Purpose

Surface treatments send a visual cue to motorists about the function of a street. They also create an aesthetic enhancement of a street and can be used to delineate separate space for pedestrians or bicyclists.

Considerations

  • Slippery surfaces, such as smooth granite and paint, and uneven surfaces, such as cobblestones and brick, should not be used in the primary pedestrian or bicycle travel paths. Bumpy surfaces may be especially uncomfortable for wheelchair users and a tripping issue for all pedestrians.
  • Coordinate choice and placement of materials with maintenance agencies.
  • Design and maintenance must ensure crosswalk visibility over time.
  • Using materials such as bricks and cobblestones may increase the cost of construction and maintenance.

Cost

The cost for normal concrete sidewalk (four feet) is approximately $32 per linear foot; colored sidewalk is typically only a few dollars more per linear foot. Stamped concrete is approximately $45 per linear foot. Materials requiring hand labor (cobblestones or pavers) can have a much higher cost. More detailed cost information can be found here.