Nicollet Mall’s Pavers Pose Problems for Women

These pavers look innocuous, but they're no fun if you're wearing heels.

These pavers look innocuous, but they’re not if you’re wearing heels.

Sometimes, we fail to notice the subtle ways in which we’re privileged.

So it was for me last week when I wondered aloud to a friend about why Nicollet Mall’s attractive granite pavers are going to be torn out as part of the just-underway redesign of downtown Minneapolis’s signature pedestrian/bus/taxi corridor.

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“Try walking on them when it’s raining and you’re wearing heels!” she said, going on to explain that the surface of the pavers becomes extremely slick when wet — something I’d imagine you’re more likely to notice more when wearing footwear of the relatively precarious variety.

My friend added that the gaps between the pavers can be dangerous even in dry conditions, as they’re wide enough where a heel can sink into them, causing a person to twist their ankle and lose their balance.

I’d never thought along those lines before, but city officials confirm they were aware of concerns of that sort when discussing the redesign.

“Yes, we’ve heard that a lot,” David Frank, economic development director for the city of Minneapolis, tells me. “The existing pavers are set far enough apart where if you’re wearing a certain type of heel, it can be treacherous.”

Beyond safety concerns, Frank says he’s also heard from people who find the current pavers to be annoying and uncomfortable.

“We’ve also heard from people who pull rolling suitcases along the street or are in wheelchairs, and the pavers go, ‘Bump! Bump Bump!'” Frank says. “With wheelchairs, granite can be slippery when it’s wet, or when it’s close to freezing outside and it’s a little bit wet, it’s very, very slippery.”

To address those issues, Frank says the renovated Nicollet Mall will feature improved underground drainage and pavers that are installed closer together.

Nicollet Mall’s renovation — the first major redesign of the strip since the late 1980s — is scheduled to be done by 2017, with most of the streetscape work taking place next year.

Until then, watch your step when walking down Nicollet Mall, especially if you’re a woman wearing heels. Those pavers weren’t designed for you!

“I would say this falls into the category of, ‘Things that lots of people know about and wish we could do something about,'” Frank says, adding that to his knowledge city officials haven’t discussed putting up signage to warn people about the pavers.

“But the great thing is, now we’re doing something about it,” he says.

Photo credit — m01229 on Flickr

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