The Road Less Traveled
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Reinventing the Humble Road
With climate change upon us, it’s past time to start reimagining how we design our cities. Indeed, concern over the present state of the environment can be effectively leveraged as a means of creating improved social standards for all inhabitants. One such glaring opportunity is in the use of roads.
Yes, roads! Not a particularly glamorous topic, but one that has substantial and far reaching implications. It’s no secret that cities are pretty much designed around vehicular traffic (for those fortunate enough to have had the benefit of urban planning), with the human and environmental aspects somehow relegated as secondary.
Thankfully, this mentality is slowly changing as societies rediscover the importance of the pedestrian as well as the cyclist (see The Daily Commute). As a result, it also marks the occasion for looking to other road alternatives that can transcend the noxious tar and asphalt that scar the land. In this post, I explore some alternatives that are being developed and some additional considerations that are being made to the present state of roads.
All Roads Lead to Rome
Arguably one of the more renowned roadways, those of the ancient Roman Empire highlight the importance and effectiveness of a competent road network. In the centuries since, we’ve come to realize that we really do need roads, but we also don’t quite build them to last the same way. Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison given that we now have car, trucks, and semi-trailers, but that’s all the more reason to be able to offer something a little more modern that can reflect the present 21st century.
Like solar powered roads! How brilliant is that? Rather than simply losing all that space to roads, even when they’re not in use, by converting them to solar cells they can actually generate power.
A novel way to put to use all that single serve plastic (see also Finding Opportunity in Plastic Waste), and convert it to something more long term. Discarded plastics still have utility and can already replace some of the bitumen currently needed for road building and repair (see How Stuff Works).
Paint It White
The city of Los Angeles has recently discovered that by painting the roads white they can actually reflect some of the heat and light (see Sciencemag.org), and cool the streets by a few degrees celsius.
Couldn’t resist;) Contrary to The Rolling Stones prerogative, painting it white has its benefits! Seems like a clear win that can be rapidly implemented.
A pretty ingenious way of allowing for wildlife to make it across from wilderness to wilderness without having to risk death by running across the highway.
Grass Covered Parking
A solid green alternative to pavement. I’m personally a big fan of this one. I mean, why do parking lots have to be all pavement. Driveways too for that matter. In my neighborhood, more and more people are gradually making the switch. It’s still a minority, but those who’ve opted for the greener driveways are happier for it.
A Green Path Ahead
There are still other great ideas out there I’m certain! Once we start recognizing the problem for what it is, and realize there are opportunities apparent in the potential solutions, I’m confident we can discover some pretty amazing solutions to how we get around. Please feel free to share your own discoveries in the comments section below.