Where The Road Paving Ends

We make a really strict mental distinction between paved roads and walking paths these days. But if a paved road ends in a cul-de-sac or has a really sharp bend, there is almost always a walking path that continues in the same direction. And if you look closely at the path, it often has a pretty serious road bank. It shows that a lot of work has been put into the path, and it used to be wider than the 40 cm or so that walkers are using today. Following the path, you’ll often find the foundation of a small-holding and surviving garden plants.

These are signs that prior to cars and paved roads, the entire road plus walking path were originally just one unpaved road. The cul-de-sac or the sharp bend is just the point where modern planners decided to stop paving the road. 120 years ago our current distinction between the road and the path did not exist.


Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

14 thoughts on “Where The Road Paving Ends”

  1. Unless you find yourself walking through a housing development where the planners wisely decided to forgo interconnecting footpaths in favour of building more identical one-family homes. The turning area at the end of a cul-de-sac is actually a highly desirable address for some. Of course, more often than not, there was no historical path in that spot, just some much less profitable arable land. Who needs grain?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sweden is not densely populated and our population would shrink fast if it weren’t for immigration. The woods and that overgrown old road are never far away…


      1. Yes, of course, but why down to fewer than two children on average, which is not sustainable?

        Yes, it is sustainable with immigration. I have no problem with immigration per se; my wife and I are both immigrants. But a first-world country relying on immigration so that its population is youthful enough to keep society running is not a good idea, for many reasons. One of them is that siphoning off the better qualified people leaves them missing in their home countries. Even within the EU, there is a severe shortage of medical personnel in poorer countries, because, after having their education financed by taxpayers, too many move to greener pastures.

        Yes, it is a complicated problem, but somehow replying on immigration to keep one’s own society function doesn’t seem like a good idea.


  2. Surely you understand that this is not down to any policy decision regarding future demography. It’s just what happens dependably when women get access to education.


    1. It’s not a strict linear relationship, though, as countries with the same level of education have different birth rates. Other things play a role, such as how easy it is to raise a child and so on.


  3. A lot of people think there are too many people in the world, and their number is growing all the time. A lot of other people think that the future world will be a lot worse than the recent past (e.g. really a lot of Japanese people think so). So a lot of people are making a conscious decision to have only one or at most two children, or even none at all.

    That is an additional factor to the demographic transition that Martin has correctly enunciated. As people, particularly women, become better educated and less poor, their focus shifts from simply surviving to quality of life, including the environment, healthcare, food safety and quality, shinier consumer goods, etc. Quality (and quantity) of life for women means, for one (big) thing, fewer rather than more children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with all of that. I just find it a bit strange to justify immigration by saying that otherwise the country being immigrated to wouldn’t be sustainable.


      1. If you look back you’ll find that nobody has argued either for or against immigration. I reported a fact having to do with Sweden’s low population density, where roads into the woods are part abandoned when suburban streets are laid out.


  4. Right, not here. But the shrinking population in the absence of immigration is often used to justify immigration. Again, I have no problem with immigration, but it seems wrong for countries to actively recruit highly skilled immigrants whom they need which leads to them not being available in their home countries, which probably increases the pay gap which entices them to immigrate in the first place.


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