A Material Girl

posted by Ellen Perlman When I read that Washington, D.C. had put down some rubber sidewalks I decided I just had to go test ...
by | August 2, 2006

posted by Ellen Perlman

Rubbersidewalks1_1 When I read that Washington, D.C. had put down some rubber sidewalks I decided I just had to go test them. I'm a city kid. I was raised playing hit-the-penny on concrete (wow, did I just date myself) and making sure not to break my mother's back by stepping on a crack. Would rubber sidewalks ruin everything? Here's what I found.

  • The pink rubber balls (we had Spaldeens back then; this time I used a Hi-Bounce Pinky) used for hit-the-penny bounce a few inches higher on concrete than on rubber. Probably not noticeable except if you do a test.
  • The rubber is great for skating. There seems to be less friction and noise. But the wheels leave marks, possibly just dirt and dust. Score one for inline skaters, minus one for the city.
  • Chalk goes on more smoothly on rubber than asphalt but doesn't stay on as long. It washes off both materials in the rain. Minus one for hopscotch players. Score it a wash for the city.
  • Thin high heels wobble a bit but overall the rubber is probably gentler on the body. Score one for walkers and runners. Score one for the city from pleased constituents.

Another finding -- and more pics! -- after the jump.

  • Rubbersidewalks2 For those who drink tea or juice in bottles, or those late night beer and wine drinkers (which of course you shouldn't be doing in most places), here's the amazing thing. You drop a bottle, it just bounces. I was told I could "tomahawk" a bottle and it would still just bounce. But I didn't think my aim would be good enough to tomahawk a bottle and manage to land it on one of the few rubber squares that the District has installed around some trees. So as my last test, I timidly dropped a bottle from shoulder length and shockingly it DID bounce. Score one for the city and the Rubbersidewalks3 drinkers. Unfortunately, it bounced sideways, onto the adjacent concrete and shattered -- from a  mere bounce height of about a foot. But due to some good contingency planning, I had a dustpan and brush with me. Score plus one for me for good planning, minus one for having to clean up my mess.
  • Check out the "Idea Center" on Governing's home page for some actual useful information about rubber sidewalks and watch for a one-page feature on them on the last page of Governing's September issue for even more information.

    Ellen Perlman
    Ellen Perlman | Former columnist | mailbox@governing.com