As one of Vancouver’s oldest neighborhoods, Hough has its share of large, old trees. The trees shade the neighborhood’s collection of bungalows, foursquares and Victorians in the summer, calm drivers and increase property values. But their expansive root systems also cause sidewalk cracks and upheaval, presenting tripping hazards and requiring costly repairs.“Last year, sidewalks were a big topic in Hough,” said Melissa Tiefenthaler, co-chair of the Hough Neighborhood Association. “I started thinking maybe it’s not the trees’ fault; maybe it’s the sidewalks’ fault.”Tiefenthaler, 32, drew from the knowledge she’d learned from studying urban forestry as part of earning a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Portland State University to come up with a resolution to Hough’s conflict with nature.Rubber sidewalks, used in about 60 cities nationwide, continually bounced back to her mind. And Vancouver’s first rubber sidewalk was conceived.Rubber sidewalks have been used in playgrounds and equestrian tracks for some time. Nowadays, they’re gaining popularity worldwide for use in sidewalks for a variety of reasons. San Francisco opted for them to reduce maintenance costs. Pub owners in Sydney, Australia have installed them to soften the fall for drunken customers who get into brawls. The nearest rubber sidewalks are in Olympia and Wilsonville, Ore.The sidewalks are flexible enough to accommodate growing tree roots without cracking but also offer other benefits. Made of recycled materials, the sidewalks are environmentally conscientious. They allow nearly 98 inches of rainwater to seep into the ground beneath the sidewalk. The water absorption encourages tree roots to grow deeper under the ground away from sidewalks, reducing the risk of sidewalk cracking and upheaval. That results in fewer sidewalk repairs and maintenance costs.