Sidewalk this way

Dear Ace: What’s with these newfangled sidewalks the city is putting in? Are they supposed to be artistic, longer-lasting or just cheap?—Connie Crete

Connie: Even though Ace has cheerfully covered other readers’ sidewalk-related questions in the past, never has he had the opportunity to tell this (he thinks) uproarious story from his childhood. Allow him now, if you will, to do just that. He promises it ties in.

When Ace was about 7 years old, Mother Atkins took him and his best friend, “Champ” (his name has been changed to shelter him from the embarrassment) to look at puppies at the local pet store. Champ was a cautious sort; he would only participate in shenanigans that merely bordered on naughty, never fully able to commit. But on this particular day, Champ wanted to race Ace (that rhymes!) down the sidewalk to the front door of the store (and again!). Ace got ready. He counted one, two…but before he could get to three, Champ, thinking he could get a head start, jumped the gun, tripped, and fell flat on his face. Oh, how he howled. (Ace howled too, but for a slightly different reason.)

So, the point is: Sidewalks can be dangerous. But, according to Development Manager Angela Tucker, Charlottesville is working to get some in the city up to snuff (or, in some cases, into existence).

“We work from a list of approved sidewalks,” she tells Ace. Sidewalks, she notes, that the Planning Commission approved a few years ago. So far, Calhoun Street and Belleview Avenue have both been fixed up and work has already begun on River Road.

As far as the (“newfangled”) aesthetics go, Angela told Ace that the asphalt is painted gray, making it look more like concrete, for a few reasons.

For one, sometimes the site of the new sidewalk requires some sensitivity to the surrounding landscape. Plus, asphalt is more cost-effective.

“It helps with stretching the [city’s] construction budget,” she says, since concrete is typically more expensive.

Though, you’ll find that as your face hits the sidewalk during an ill-fated foot race, concrete and asphalt are pretty much the same, conceptually speaking. 

So far, Calhoun Street and Belleview Avenue have both been fixed up and work has already begun on River Road.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 18 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to