In my area of Kansas, gravel roads seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate, being paved over and bringing more traffic traveling at higher speeds. Is this a good thing or bad?
The following is a photo of a newly-paved road in eastern Kansas. Up until a few days ago, this was a quiet gravel road in far southwestern Johnson County (specifically, 215th Street between Gardner Road and Moonlight Road). Now it’s been paved.
I know that doesn’t look much like pavement, but it’s chipseal, which is basically asphalt pavement covered by a thin layer of fine aggregate.
Its present state is a transitory phase between a gravel road and an asphalt road. Before long, that gravel will be swallowed up by the asphalt, leaving a relatively smooth and uniform surface. Even in its fresh chipseal state, the road is easily rideable by bicycles, and will only get smoother over time.
I don’t know if this is something that anyone else has noticed, but gravel roads in my area seem to be disappearing at an ever-increasing rate. I can think of at least 15 miles of roads, within only 10 miles of my house, that were very recently gravel and are now paved.
Yes, the paved roads become easier for thin-tired road bikes to handle, and are opening up new routes for recreational riders.
But the paved roads also bring increased traffic. And it seems like the smoother a road becomes, the faster motorists want to drive, and the more of them there are.
Gravel roads, by contrast, carry much less traffic, and at much lower speed. And most are eminently bikeable.
The other problem with paving gravel roads is that the new pavement seems to attract new housing as well, increasing suburban sprawl, stretching already-scarce resources, and bringing more and more traffic, that has to travel farther and farther to get to work or stores.
So I guess I see paving as a mixed blessing, at best, and often a big negative. What do you think?