Roadways Hogging The Planet

I was out on my patch of dirt the other day figuring out how much of my land was taken up by dirt roads and tracks. I wasn’t particularly proud of the result.

This is land primarily being used to carry me, my tools and of course, Niki The Wonder Dog; land that previously would have been covered with native vegetation. 

While my tracks are also thoroughfare for animals and in some cases act as firebreaks (of sorts), it’s still a big chunk of land. The roadways have also altered the way water moves on the block (what little of it I get).

I started thinking bigger picture – how many miles/kilometres of road in Australia and elsewhere?

The CIA Factbook has a handy (and frightening) list of countries and the estimated amount roadways within. Here are a few examples – in kilometers.

United States – 6,506,204
China – 3,860,800
India – 3,320,410
Brazil – 1,751,868
Japan – 1,210,251
Canada – 1,042,300
Russia – 982,000
France – 951,200
Australia – 818,356
Spain – 681,298
Germany – 644,480
Sweden – 572,900
Italy – 487,700
Indonesia – 437,759
Poland – 423,997
United Kingdom – 394,428
Mexico – 366,095
South Africa – 362,099
Turkey – 352,046
Pakistan – 260,760

It was interesting to note that Australia has far more roadway per capita than even the USA, which tops the list by quite a margin.

I downloaded the data for all 220 countries, crunched the numbers and the grand total comes to 33,504,203 kilometers (20,818,546 miles) of paved and unpaved roads. That is more than 8 times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

Lets say the average road width is 5 metres – many are far wider; but lets go with 5 metres for the sake of this rough calculation for what will be a conservative estimate. This works out to 167,521 square kilometers (64,680 square miles) of land dedicated to roads. This is slightly less than the entire area occupied by the U.S. state of Florida, substantially larger than England and a bit over 2.5 times the area of the Australian island state of Tasmania.
Add to this tally roads on private land, driveways and parking lots – and let’s not forget roadside verges and other related road infrastructure. The final figure would be astronomical.
The mind boggles. It’s another reminder to me just how much space we take up to the exclusion of other inhabitants of this planet.