The Road Less Traveled

Electric Roads

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 opportunity is through the transformation of the humble road.

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. Those that were planned at least. Roads dominate our cities and suburbs, with the human and environmental concerns somehow relegated as secondary.

The Beatles walk across Abbey Road.

A Return to Walking

Thankfully, this mentality is slowly changing as societies rediscover the importance of the pedestrians & cyclists (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

The Roman Empire
Click for a short clip about Roman Roads.

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.

The Solar-Powered Road

solar-roads
Click to view o short clip on solar powered roadways.

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.

Recycled Plastic Roads

MacRebur-PLASTIC-ROAD-1920
Click the image for a short clip on recycled plastic roads.

A novel way to put to use all that disposable plastic (see also Finding Opportunity in Plastic Waste), and convert it to something more long term. It comes as no surprise that discarded plastics still have utility. Our plastic waste can already replace some of the bitumen currently needed for road building and repair (see How Stuff Works).

Paint It White – A Lighter Road

White Ashphalt
Click the image to view a short clip.

The city of Los Angeles recently discovered that painting the road white can actually reflect heat (see Sciencemag.org). This white alternative effectively cools the streets by a few degrees celsius. Seems like a clear win that can be quickly implemented.

Green Overpasses

Green Overpass
Click the image to view a short clip.

A pretty ingenious way of allowing for wildlife to make it across! They can travel from wilderness to wilderness, without having to risk death by running across the highway. Nicely done!👏 

Grass Covered Parking

Grass Covered Parking
Click to discover a Kenyan rock band of the same name.

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.

The Sustainable Road Is The Way.
Click the image for more on the road of the future.

The Green Road Ahead

There are still so many other great ideas out there! Once we start recognizing the problem for what it is, there are plenty of opportunities in the transition to sustainability. I’m confident we can unlock some pretty amazing innovation as we continue down this path. Please feel free to share your own road discoveries in the comments section below.

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