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The Ecological Impact of Roads and Parking

Many of the people who criticize developments for destroying habitat just don’t realize the impacts that the roads that they drive on, including major highways, have on wildlife corridors. Over the past couple of decades, awareness of wildlife corridors has grown.

In Australia, suspended possum crossings sway above the F3 highway north of Sydney. West of Calgary in Canada, large vegetated overpasses protect deer, moose, bears and other animals from the 4 lane highway below…

Some experts believe that habitat fragmentation, the slicing and dicing of large landscapes into small pieces with roads, homes and other development, is the biggest of all environmental problems. “By far,” said Dr. Michael Soulé, a retired biologist and founder of the Society for Conservation Biology. “It’s bigger than climate change. While the serious effects from climate change are 30 years away, there’s nothing left to save then if we don’t deal with fragmentation. And the spearhead of fragmentation are roads.”

Fragmentation cuts off wildlife from critical habitat, including food, security or others of their species for reproduction and genetic diversity. Eventually they disappear.

There are some four million miles of roads affecting 20 percent of the country, and in the last 10 years the new field of road ecology has emerged to study the many impacts of roads, and how to mitigate the damage.

Source: Scientists Seek to Mitigate Ecological Damage From Roads – NYTimes.com.

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From roads and highways to parking requirements in the planning process…

“Parking requirements create great harm: They subsidize cars, distort transportation choices, warp urban form, increase housing costs, burden low-income households, debase urban design, damage the economy, and degrade the environment.”

We make these sacrifices to accommodate a machine that, despite having been civilized a bit by electronics, essentially remains an early 20th century-style, oil-burning, exhaust-spewing contraption. The legacy of this long reign is an utterly car-centered environment of huge, signal-clogged boulevards and buildings adrift in vast oceans of parking.

Source: U.S. urban planning priorities out of whack

I drive, I park, but if retail and commercial activities were located in walkable centers, the tendancy to drive from shop to shop would decrease, and the ability to increase transit ridership would improve as people would congregate around a common destination.

These problems revolve around our prioritizing of the automobile in every sector of society. Is there a way to reverse this mess?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

4 thoughts on “The Ecological Impact of Roads and Parking

  1. I read an article back in April in the San Diego Earth Times (originally published on Planetizen) which talks about the benefits of deconstructing freeways. The article is called “From induced demand to reduced demand”.

    The article doesn’t focus on wildlife corridors, but it does highlight an important piece of the solution.

    You can read it here: http://www.sdearthtimes.com/et0407/et0407s15.html

  2. Thanks for your comment Jay. If Kunstler’s take on the long emergency is correct, the highways will likely become industrial wastelands crisscrossing the continent. I can see reduced demand as a reality for the future.
    Thanks for your comments and providing the link to an interesting article!

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