These streets aren’t made for walking: Why sidewalks need a rethink

These streets aren’t made for walking: Why sidewalks need a rethink

WHEN Viveca Wallqvist first phoned an area asphalt company, she didn’t mince her words. “I have something to let you know,” she said. “Your material is absolutely hard – too much. Folks are getting hurt.” Her comments didn’t decrease well. “These were like, ‘Who is this crazy scientist?,’” she recalls. Asphalt is meant to be hard, they said. But a couple of days later, the business rang back. It had been the start of a journey that could reinvent the bottom we walk on.

Wallqvist’s passion is rare. It really is more than two millennia since the Romans laid their first pavimentum , from where we get the term “pavement”. Since then, very few people have questioned the actual fact that the pavements we walk on are, in effect, extensions of the street surface, manufactured from stuff with properties that almost exclusively reflected the needs of horse-drawn and then motorised vehicles instead of pedestrians. Wallqvist, a materials chemist at the study Institutes of Sweden in Stockholm, is set to change that.

Meanwhile, in London, plans are afoot to create a giant research facility to test new, spongier walking surfaces. It is the brainchild of Nick Tyler at University College London, who’s also convinced that pavement pounding is harming us. The average person takes around 200 million steps in an eternity, he notes, and we aren’t evolved to cope with such hard surfaces.

So, after waiting a lot more than 2300 years for a pavement …

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