You don’t see a lot of new brick residential construction in Peoria.
When you do, the brick often appears only on the side of the home facing the street. Sometimes it’s limited to narrow columns on either side of the garage door. For people of modest means in Illinois, an all-brick home is too expensive to contemplate.
You’re more likely to see masses of brick used in the construction of big-box stores. But when you consider the building setbacks, huge parking lots and anti-human scale of factory commerce, you realize that the best attributes of brick–beauty, strength and permanence–are overwhelmed by the same steroidal mercantilism that promotes consumption over consideration.
I’ve been riding over several blocks of pavers on my way to and from downtown Peoria. The surface is a bit rough compared to an asphalt road, but my bicycle has wide, forgiving tires.
Car traffic is light on this street for a number of reasons. Homeowners and renters park on both sides of a relatively narrow right of way. Stop signs are numerous. Houses and mature trees, vertical elements that naturally slow traffic, guard the street on both sides.
Plus, the road surface has an evolutionary feature that discourages higher traffic counts: modest undulations developed over decades. These gentle brick waves give drivers useful feedback on their speed. And drivers slow down, not because of a sign or the possibility of a police car, but because the street itself imposes a natural limit.
This segment of my commute has been patched over the years, sometimes successfully (with brick), sometimes not (with asphalt). But the street continues to serve its residents, and the passing person on a mountain bike, very well indeed.
If only more such corridors had been protected against modern road construction techniques.