Over 300 million tires are thrown out each year in Canada and the United States alone. Instead of accumulating in landfills, vacant lots, and your garage, there are companies out there that have a new plan for those unused eyesores – Rubber Sidewalks.
This may sound a little bizarre but there are already a handful of companies out there that make these types of sidewalks from recycled rubber.
First, rubber sidewalk material is made entirely of recycled tires. The cost is slightly more to construct and install as concrete/asphalt sidewalks, however, it lasts three times longer and does not have the carbon footprint that the production of concrete is notorious for. The life-cycle cost for the rubber sidewalk should be less than the other two materials. Maintenance should be easier and cheaper, therefore paying off in the long run.
Another big selling point for rubber sidewalks is the fact that they are much kinder to tree roots that are planted in or near sidewalks. The rubber tiles that often make up the sidewalk can also be removed to trim roots and service any utility lines running beneath them. Urban trees are often cut down after they reach maturity due to the fact that they have invaded the concrete sidewalks around them and with rubber, we can save most if not all of these trees from an early demise.
Rubber sidewalks not only resist cracking from tree roots but they are also pervious, allowing storm water to flow through them, tree roots grow less invasively underneath of them because of increased air and water flow, they don’t crack from freezing weather unlike concrete, they use recycled content, they reduce the heat island effect by staying much cooler than concrete in the sun, and rubber sidewalks are also better on our joints. They also can handle winter salt without damage.
There are several cities that have been experimenting with rubber panels for the past few years.
One city is Vancouver, BC. They have been monitoring the durability of this walkway over the last five years and it has been going very well. They will consider installing them near senior’s centres and hospitals in the near future.
In Sault Ste. Marie, the city is working with Ontario Tire Stewardship on a pilot project.
The cost of installing the rubber sidewalk is $110 per square metre, while the cost of a concrete sidewalk is a little less at $75 per square metre. It has been noted that large savings on maintenance have been found.
“It’s the only system that allows a city to manage its sidewalks. Concrete cannot be managed – it survives or breaks, and when it breaks, it becomes very expensive and very dangerous. Cities are tired of replacing broken concrete and tired of people getting hurt on broken sidewalks.” – Lindsay Smith, owner of Rubbersidewalks Inc.
To summarize, some of the benefits of these fire-resistant rubber sidewalks are:
- Lower greenhouse gases because tires are recycled, not disposed of
- Longer lasting than concrete and concrete does not have to be created
- Installation is straightforward, similar to concrete, and easier
- Panels can be lifted to trim tree roots underneath
- Flexible and doesn’t crack like concrete which can be a tripping hazard
- Softer surface for walkers, joggers, the elderly and the injured
Obviously, Guelph City Staff would have investigate the pros and cons of such sidewalks and get any questions they may have answered. The good news is that many of the questions they may have already been answered by the many cities who have already tested and installed these type of sidewalks. A partnership with Ontario Tire Stewardship can also be done.
It would be good for Guelph to look into these type of sidewalks especially with our sidewalk repair deficit in older neighbourhoods (especially ones with many trees), the downtown Guelph area and other high traffic areas.