Sunday, 17 August 2014

Rubber tiles don't work on Sunderland pavements!

A Liberal Democrat from Sunderland recently reported that paving surfaces in one area of Sunderland were, in their view, in a hazardous condition. This is an example of the problem they were concerned about.

 Further research revealed that these were rubber/resin tiles, stuck to the ground (initially) by adhesive. They were placed on the edges of pavements as an aid to blind and partially sighted people, since they are covered with raised bumps, to indicate the proximity of the road crossing point.
This is how it should work:-,d.ZGU
As you can see, the pavement surface has deteriorated considerably, and presents a hazard, and certainly no longer provides the assistance it was designed for.

There are several visible problems which can be seen in this Leechmere Road/Buttermere Street shot:-
•    The tiles have lifted - white adhesive residue is visible, suggesting the bond has failed. This is a trip hazard.
•    The tiles have been subjected to excessive wear, so that the raised bumps are not adequate.
•    The rubber material has deteriorated, so that cracking  and fragmentation have occurred. They appear to be breaking along the mould lines in places.
•    Tiles are missing.
•    Some in situ tiles are raised at the edges, causing curling and a further trip hazard  indeed, they have been broken round the edges, suggesting that they have been caught by pedestrian traffic.

I asked the council some questions in this Freedom of Information request. I have quoted their response exactly:-

1. Could you please tell me how many times adhesive tactile paving
tiles have been used in Sunderland instead of stone or concrete?
This information may be in numbers of crossings or as a percentage
of all such crossings.

We do not hold this information – there are no records of the number of
tactile locations where adhesive tiles have been used.

2. Why use this choice of material? Is it cheaper? By how much
approximately? (i.e. Is it a quarter of the price? Less?) I don't
know if you will be allowed to give a per unit price for
comparison, but if you can, it would be appreciated.

The choice of material used is dependent on the location where it is being
used or the availability of materials at the time.  The actual material
costs for adhesive tiles are more than the cost for concrete tiles, but
this can be offset due to lower maintenance costs where there is constant
damage (adhesive tiles would be used in these locations).

3. What is the "life expectancy" of the rubber tiles? And the
adhesive used? And have they passed safety tests?

The life expectancy is 25 years for the tile and the adhesive (Epoxy
adhesive).  The adhesive tiles are fully in accordance with the Disabled
Persons Act 1981 and DDA2004 and have been tested for numerous other
matters.  We do not hold details of the life expectancy of these

Totally contradictory response!

4. Have the rubber tiles regularly been assessed for health and
safety purposes? Is their performance satisfactory?

Their performance is satisfactory.

5. Are the adhesive rubber tiles for temporary or permanent use?

The adhesive resin based tiles are installed for permanent use.

Personally, I regard the performance of these tiles as far from satisfactory. I don't know how far they are into their 25 year lifespan, but might I suggest to the council that they are best described as decrepit! And certainly not safe or fit for purpose - in fact, an accident waiting to happen! And the rubber tiles are more expensive than long lasting concrete!

Here's a 2008 Google Earth shot of that last corner. No tiles - so the pavement has been updated, then deteriorated to this extent, in only 6 years!

We've reported the state of the tiles we looked at in Leechmere Road, but we've had reports of tiles being in poor condition in other parts of the city and would encourage people to report them to the council if they are in a dangerous condition (since the council doesn't know where they are). Might I suggest they find out!