Cobblestone Streets...Charm or Curse?
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
I can usually tell who are tourists visiting our lovely city. They either have nasty bites on their legs from the sand fleas or some part of their anatomy is bandaged or cast from having met our historically famous cobblestone streets! Although these streets lend to the charm of our historic city, they can be dangerous due to their uneven surface and ability to form potholes. The original use of cobblestones during the early days however was quite practical.
Paving with cobblestones allowed a road to be heavily used all year long. It prevented the build-up of ruts often found in dirt roads. It had the additional advantage of not getting muddy in wet weather or dusty in dry weather. Shod horses or mules were also able to get better traction on stone cobbles. The natural materials or “cobbles,” originally referred to any small stone measuring between 2.5 and 10 inches (6.4 and 25.4 cm) and rounded by the flow of water; essentially, a large pebble. Although the noise of riding over cobbles may seem annoying, it was actually considered good as it warned pedestrians of oncoming traffic…. horse, mule or automobile!
Cobblestones are typically either set in sand or similar material, or are bound together with cement or asphalt. Cobblestones set in sand have the environmental advantage of being permeable paving and of moving rather than cracking with movements in the ground.
In Vallarta, the making or remaking of a cobblestone street begins with the leveling of the underlying dirt. Then comes sand. Next parallel lines of larger stones are laid in rows, sometimes with cement holding them in place. Rows are them filled in with the smaller stones. Finally, sand or cement is packed around all the stones and left to settle with gaps filled in as needed. Repair of potholes tends to be a mixture of stones, sand, cement, pulverized terra cotta, or asphalt. In the historic areas of Vallarta, the original streets are required to remain in keeping with the original cobblestone construction.
Today, walking on cobblestones can be considered good exercise depending on the distance, frequency, surface and grade. Fitness local Via Anderson has written, “…walking on the many cobblestones streets here…a few times daily with bare feet (preferred) or minimal shoes (to protect from debris) provides stimulation to the foot musculature that in turn becomes stronger and better able to handle these forces for longer periods of time…. and may be significant in reversing aging.”