Sidewalks form the backbone of the pedestrian transportation system in all countries and the earliest examples date back centuries. During a recent trip to Holland, I became fascinated with the different types and styles of sidewalks and pathways in the cities and the surrounding countryside. Once I started to pay attention to what I was walking on, I was amazed at the wide range of different materials, textures and patterns. Many of these sidewalks and plazas date back hundreds of years and I am sure, at the time of their construction, they were “state-of-the-art” for the period.
Using materials that were common to the era, the pedestrian areas were carefully designed, many with beautiful patterns, some more random than others, but all of them have a unique patina from centuries of wear and tear. Local craftsmen were using materials native to the local area and much of the brick and stone was actually salvaged from even older sidewalks that were torn out.
I have noticed a resurgence of interest in sidewalks made from local, natural materials, but these are mainly on the grounds of homes, not public areas. One reason being that although beautiful, they are not as easy to walk on. Even in tennis shoes, the rough surfaces can be a challenge and the uneven surface also causes problems for people in wheelchairs or using walkers.
The next time you are traveling overseas, take a look at the pathway you are walking on, it just might amaze you.
By Teri A. Ficken, President
F&D International, LLC