Saturday, September 10, 2011

Russian Sidewalks

Brick sidewalks are the surest sign of an oppressive city government. They make no sense, however they are considered a good idea by a few people who want to push construction of them through. It always ends in the same way, concrete sidewalks may not be as pretty, but they are better in most other ways. I'm talking to you Portsmouth NH, and now we can add Moscow Russia.

I'm gonna talk about Moscow's new city government, and sidewalks, it's not just about bricks, yes they're poorly set, and the city's aggressive snow and ice removal will soon lay waste to these new brick paths. In particular I'd like to mention the large square traction assisting paving stones that have been installed in sidewalks throughout Moscow, over the course of year, but now, along with the bricking, their installation has been stepped up as part of this sidewalk program.

The problem is this: I estimate that about 80-90 % of them are installed incorrectly, the few that are installed correctly being coincidental. Let me see if I can describe this. These stones are the square ones that are installed for added traction where sidewalks are lowered to meet the street level, at crosswalks and street corners. The blocks are square and have paralell ribs on the tops, and the biggest problem is they are installed with the ribs facing the wrong way, paralell to the direction that the pedestrian would be walking when they cross them.

Don't believe it? All my Moscow friends can test it for yourself. Walk up to one of them and put your foot on the ribs when they are parallel to your foot, then putting a bit less than half of your weight on that foot try and slide your foot along the stone taking not of how much force you had to exert to make your foot slip. Then rotate your foot so that it's perpendicular to the the ribs, so your foot crosses several of the ribs and try the same thing, it takes a lot more force to make your foot slide, if at all. Now take note of which direction your are facing, 80-90 percent of the time, the answer is NO with the flow of pedestrian traffic.

That this mistake and add to the fact that the ribs are angled downward to the lower surface, and it goes from being traction to a slide. Then add a sloppy coat of yellow enamel paint to make them more slippery, then add a light coat of snow, and they just become something that is not only not helpful to a pedestrian, but more likely to cause a fall.

Then. for even more fun, some of them are installed so that they are recessed into the pavement, giving that ice and snow and water a nice little place to collect.

So, I explain this to some of my friends, but I can never really communicate this to anyone who knows anyone to make some sort of difference, I can't tell the people laying the stones, because of course they don't care one way or the other, and now I'm writing about it in English, so I guess no one who have the ability to do anything about this will be reading this, but I just had to tell someone, so I'm telling you.

It's it possible that no one who is involved really cares? Yes, but also since they are so consistently installed incorrectly someone must have told someone that this is the way it must be done. Maybe this teaches larger lessons about Russian bureaucracy, autocracy, nihilism, or any other symptom of Russia's problems. Take your pick, draw your own conclusion.

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