Friday, April 19, 2024

In deciding whether bricks have a place on our sidewalks, the answer must be a firm, enduring: Keep the bricks.

This means constant maintenance of sidewalks — expensive and tedious tasks that fiscally minded cities would gladly avoid in favor of smooth, bland concrete.

Our city manager, Robert Healy, said Monday that if it were up to him, “all the sidewalks would be concrete,” and it’s easy to understand his point of view. In addition to being expensive and work intensive, brick can be dangerous. Anyone can find themselves tripping and hurting themselves crossing the uneven expanses of city bricks, though the elderly and disabled are most at risk.

But concrete is not Cambridge.

City councilor Anthony Gallucio got it exactly right in saying “Brick is part of the historic nature of Cambridge” — not just because it’s what people walked on here 200 years ago, but because Cambridge was once the manufacturing base for the country’s finest bricks.

It makes getting even artificial brick a slightly distasteful option, and ubiquitous concrete would be a horror, part of the same turn to blandness people protest in the coming of the cell phone stores and national-bank branches that have polluted Harvard Square.

Uneven, erratic, a little dangerous they may be. But bricks are historically — and emotionally — right for this city, and they should stay.