Brooklyn’s iconic Coney Island Boardwalk was the center of controversy last year as a group of advocates fought the city’s plans to replace sections of the famous boardwalk with plastic or composite wood decking, along with sections of concrete.
Why was there such contention over the boardwalk construction repairs? In part, lawyers saw a liability issue with the fake wood, as composite boardwalk materials are notoriously slippery when wet. This would mean big lawsuits for slip and fall accidents on the New York boardwalk. Some Coney Island Boardwalk advocates went as far as to sue the city to prevent replacement plastic, composite wood boards or concrete sections from being used in the reconstruction efforts.
Anti-Slip Boardwalk Construction Materials
This very public boardwalk reconstruction process demonstrated that slippery boardwalks and the injuries they cause are a big concern — not only for the health and safety of pedestrians, but also with respect to the costly lawsuits such slip and fall accidents can incur.
While Coney Island Boardwalk advocates are eager to defend the real wood of the boardwalk, the truth remains that timber planks, especially over time, can also become dangerously slippery when wet - even more so under icy conditions.
Some would suggest that increasing the spaces between slats would avoid an overly smooth surface, but in reality, that would only create a tripping hazard. Cyclists would also suffer, as they require both a smooth and non-slip surface to traverse.
What, then, is the solution to slippery boardwalks? How can designers plan for boardwalk construction that minimizes the risk of slip and fall accidents?
Adding a topcoat or treatment to some smaller surfaces is one option. However, it’s neither practical nor cost-effective for commercial boardwalks, which can be of considerable length and size, with the potential for high pedestrian and cyclist traffic. These treatments would require multiple applications, adding to boardwalk maintenance costs.
Overlays and Covers
Some find a solution to slippery boardwalks through covering the surface with specific non-slip surface covers, pads, mats or meshes. In rare cases, even chicken wire has been used to prevent slipping. The issue, naturally, with such a solution is that you must purchase and install extra materials, and they can clash with the original design intent. Installing non-slip covers and abrasive pads to a boardwalk can also become expensive, especially as they are replaced over time.
The best long-term way to decrease the slip potential of a boardwalk decking surface is to increase its slip resistance through textures.When you think of concrete, you may imagine a fairly smooth surface. With PermaTrak’s precast concrete treads, however, formliners are used in the casting process to create a textured surface that will increase traction without making the surface too rough for cyclists or pedestrians. PermaTrak has several concrete textures available for the concrete tread surface - Sandblast is the most popular for improving traction.
In general, timber, composites and plastic boardwalk materials become slippery when wet. Textured precast concrete reduces slipperiness without invoking additional maintenance costs.
Bicycle Victoria, an independent cycling membership organization, included PermaTrak in its comparison study of various bicycle boardwalks. For the category of “Contribution to the Risk of Slipping When Wet,” PermaTrak was rated “Very Low.” Analysts also noted that precast concrete has desirable properties for cyclists, including high skid resistance, particularly with the Broom texture.
While the risk of slipping on boardwalks can never be truly eliminated, it can be significantly reduced and prevented through the use of textured concrete treads. Considering precast concrete in the design process early on can help owners avoid costly boardwalk construction repairs, treatments and covers in the future.
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Photo Credit: 2nd photo by blhphotography