roads,

the once 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” emerged as a leave charm — an icon for the city-fleeing civilization; new trails have been trod, old ones traced, excavated, kept passable; stationary homes grew their weakly connected (looped, open-ended) hairtangles of local roads. “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; even a historic trunk road may no longer lead anywhere in particular, like an animal trail tapering in and out in the middle of the woods. ■    Quintessentially public-domain (“private road: an oxymoron”), roads with their traditional status of “adopted commons” served as a model for new collaborative land ownership. If nothing else, roads are landing strips for air travelers; in gardened domains, pathways may show off the vistas but also highlight, protect the fragile spots by channeling traffic around them: dont land into the woods if theres a road nearby, at least not out of pure staylust.  ■    “Roadside biology”: for millennia, species (not just terrestrial mammals) have been adapting to human roads; that only accelerates now that the roads got quiet — easy spatial accessibility has been observed to affect curiosity, mobility, communication in nature. For humans, forks and junctions in the wilderness assume the social functions of city corners; between a packed fair (point) and an empty plain (plane), a road — “sweet spot between virtual certainty and virtual impossibility” — is where you may meet a stranger to pass by, or engage, or be engaged; “crutch of sociality,” the road is a one-dimensional attractor for a three-dimensional swarm world.

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