roads,

once the lifeblood vessels of the human world, were left unused — cracking, crumbling, drowning in vegetation — in the era of flight; whole highways — millions of miles of joyless stretches — got erased in Cleanups “wildlife deroading.” Yet the sparsened, newly nomadic Earth saw a road revival: absent the dust and roar of ground-eroding vehicles, a silent country road “balancing on the edge of dissolving” becomes a leave charm — an icon for the city-fleeing civilization. ■    Quintessentially public-domain (“private road: an oxymoron”), roads with their traditional status of “adopted commons” provided a model for Everdays collaborative land ownership. New trails have been trod, old ones traced, excavated, kept passable; stationary homes grow their weakly-connected — looped, open-ended — hairtangles of local roads; even a historic trunk road may no longer lead anywhere in particular, like an animal trail that tapers in and out in the middle of the woods: “a road is not a means to an end(point),” connectivity not a priority. Our roads are fundamentally walkways, even if floated along more than walked, each a slow — surface travel is incompatible with any practical speed — unfolding of space, an unhurried guided tour, a stream of intake.  ■    “Roadside biology”: for millennia, species (not just terrestrial mammals) have been adapting to human roads; the process only accelerates now that the roads are quiet — spatial accessibility has been observed to promote curiosity, mobility, communication in nature. For ungrounded humans, roads are landing strips: dont drop into the woods if theres a road nearby, at least not out of pure staylust; in gardened domains, pathways showing off the vistas also protect the fragile spots by channeling traffic around them. Forks and junctions in the wilderness have assumed the social functions of city corners: equidifferent from a packed fair (point) and an empty plain (plane), a road — “sweet spot between choked and deserted” — is where you may see a stranger to engage, or be engaged, or pass by silently; “crutch of sociality,” roads are a one-dimensional attractor for a three-dimensional “swarm world.”

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