Urban-Planning Fads

Newly installed brick road feature:


Brick road features a few years after installation:

This kind of thing is really fun to ride your bicycle over!
(Check this out too.)
You would think that such problems would be foreseeable, or at least that, eventually, word would get around in the urban-planning community that some initially attractive ideas have significant drawbacks. But, apparently, not all government-run planning systems have adequate feedback mechanisms. Who could have imagined.

17 thoughts on “Urban-Planning Fads”

  1. The politicians or bureaucrats who made the decision to lay the brick will have moved on to other jobs long before the foolishness of using a 19th century technology on a modern rode becomes apparent. It’s the systemic problem with government or any large private organization. Its the agent problem all over again. People who push for such projects only care that it looks good for a couple of years and then they could care less.

    The only bonus I see to brick streets is that it is almost impossible to drive more than 35mph on them without be shook to death. Bricks turn the entire road surface into a speed bump. They might serve in limited manner in driveways for public buildings or in front of schools.

  2. Funny, they are putting up brick streets around my inner-ring suburb and the city engineer (?) says it’s because these things last longer and are cheaper because of the longer lasting nature of brick. I should forward the photos……

    PS: These are the same people who paid 5 million to refurbish one small street in the commercial district which is full of empty buildings. This, I am sure, will fill those empty retail spots right up.

    Good grief.

  3. Brick will last as a road surface for as long as the substrate (the layers beneath the brick or any road surface) design and construction allows. If the substrate is poor, it won’t last. There are also different types of brick with different properties, so choosing the right brick for a road surface would be key.

    One of the key problems with brick as a road surface is heaving. If the mortar between the bricks is not done properly, or worse if there’s no sealer between the bricks, water get underneath the surface and expands when it freezes. That heaves the bricks up over time.

    Like any construction, if it’s designed and built to last it can and will. If not…

  4. Ah, but the bricks are so pretty! And they complement the nice pink sidewalks that have been installed.

    I’m not sure what was going on in this case, since the bricked areas are in a small, self-governing “village.” My guess is that either 1) the people on the village council and most of the local residents don’t ride bikes much and/or 2) the brick jobs are paid for with state funds — “free” money (use it or lose it!) from the POV of the locals.

    But there are also bricks covering most of a block in front of the fancy new opera house (boondoggle) downtown, which is on a major thoroughfare. Maybe that’s another case of “free” money, since the opera building and perhaps also the road work were paid in part out of recently floated muni bonds (and maybe state funds were involved there too).

    As for bricks vs. asphalt, bricks may last longer in theory but asphalt is cheaper to install and to patch. That’s why bricks generally aren’t used any more. Also, brick/concrete crosswalks in asphalt roads are generally going to become bumpy at the joints. And they require several days’ labor to install. I don’t see what is wrong with painting white lines on the street instead.

  5. Brick is a fad at the moment in various constituencies like the socialist village of Oak Park. It looks like it has a smaller carbon footprint or something, to the eye of the progressive beholder. Architects have good sales pitches to appeal to the vanity of whatever constituency they are looking for business from. Recently, they have hit on brick streets as a vanity product for vaguely greenish-pinkish local government types. Agreed it is bad for bikes. Agreed it will be more expensive to maintain and patch than asphalt, but it somehow looks pre-automobile and hence nice. Also it is bad for baby strollers, which is very green since human children are a form of garbage and pollution in themselves, to the current progressive mind, since they create a bigger and increasingly unsustainable carbon footprint and damage the earth, or mother.

  6. Right, Lex, it’s the architect’s fault. Sure, find the most timid target.

    Have you ever pause for a second to ask yourself – why would architects “pitch” anything? They are not salespeople. They don’t receive commission on moving merchandise. If they do, it’s called paybacks from vendors; very few architects would risk losing their license and ending up in jail, much less than in your field.

    You already know better then them somehow; you already feel compelled to condemn a professional with 10 times more knowledge than you, counting only years of architectural education. And before proving your allegations, too.

    I think if in the new year you plan to start any construction for your ever-increasing family, architects should never agree to design anything for you, for any amount of money. They will be better off if you DIY. Of course, the face of the earth you’re so unconcerned about will be disfigured with your construction decisions – but hey, You Know Better!

  7. Tatyana, stop assuming everybody else is ignorant just because they disagree with one of your beliefs or ideas or whatever. You are smart and knowledgeable. But you have a short fuse. You would be more convincing, even when you are right, if you did not personalize this stuff.

    As it happens, I represent architects. Two weeks ago I finished a two week trial representing an architect. We will probably win. I know more about architects than you think.

    I love architects. They are terrific folks. I will concede that any architect probably knows 3 times as much as I do, but not 10 times. Lets not overdo it. You know five times as much as me, we can stipulate to that.

    The idea that architects don’t have ideas they want to see built and “pitch” them, is wrong. They also get a reputation if one of their projects is pretty and photographs well and that helps them get more work. You must know this. The brick-on-ground that I know about ended up there very much through this process.

  8. Lex, stop lecturing me. I’m not your secretary nor am I your teenage daughter. You will gain more of my attention and respect in conversations when you stop behaving like a lawyer – every generalization and inaccuracy for a rhetorical effect – and when that pointed out, condescendingly attacking personality of the pointer.

    Architects have good sales pitches to appeal to the vanity>i> etc” – your words? The only thing architects sell is their expertise in design and methods of implementation. Not bricks, granite, or silver rope for VIP lounge. Strange you don’t know this basics, your being employed by architects and all.

    Yes, architects work in the service industry. But it’s the client we serve, the client that gives us direction, approves (more often disapproves) concepts, proposed aesthetics, the client who signs up on budgets. In my experience what gets built is 100% unrecognizable from what was conceived in architect’s mind – in 70% of the time. In 100% of the time, if the client is government of any scale. Of course the Architect want s to be published, of course he wants to work for many years to come – so he compromises. He gives in to ignorant knowitalls who have the authority to sign checks – but to turn things upside down and to blame the architect for vanity of his clients or incompetence of the road contractor – that takes truly legal mind.

  9. Oh, by the way, Lex, who died and gave you the right to speak for “everybody else”? I was addressing you, you personally, and you are addressing me, me personally. There is no “them” who you supposedly represent. Yes, I know, force of habit.

    Regretfully, I’m forced to decline your “stipulated” rate of ignorance. It’s not 5, it’s hundreds. Knowing architects as employers is insufficient for claiming to know them as professionals.

    Now I’m going to go and celebrate the biggest holiday of the year. Thanks for trying to spoil my mood. Wish you the same on all your holidays.

  10. Mishu: I am a commercial Interior Designer, certified by National Council for practice in US and Canada.

    Lex: good.
    The invitation to dinner I extended to you is canceled. I don’t want to see in my house people who refer to professionals in my field as crooks.

  11. Now, now lex. As an interested, interloping, observer I must say, sometimes, and especially in the holiday season, we have to be generous in spirit. Tatyana does seem to have had a short fuse here and made much of your comment (after all, we all know you can be much more opinionated, sophomoric, and subjective than this!). Just kidding, of course, but just remember ole T. may have had a very bad day (or is having too good an evening) or some other situation that made what may have been, normally, an irritating comment to her into an insult.

  12. To return to the topic of this thread, here’s another example of bad planning (here’s a photo of the tracks). I don’t know if anything has changed since the article was written, but it seems as though Seattle is going to have to make some accommodation to cyclists or face liability for accidents.

    (There’s a rambling newsgroup discussion about the Seattle situation here.)

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