Urban Sprawl


Urban sprawl or suburban sprawl mainly define sprawl , it is the unrestricted growth in many urban areas of housing, commercial development, and roads over large expanses of land, with little concern for urban planning.In the postindustrial era, sprawl has entailed no clear-cut disadvantage, such as the loss of protection, nor resulted in a uniquely identifiable cost such as investment in new fortification, however its disadvantages and costs include increased travel time, transport costs, pollution, destruction of countryside, and so on. The term “urban sprawl” was first used in an article in The Times in 1955 as a negative comment on the state of London’s outskirts. And the term is highly politicized and almost always has negative connotations. It is criticized for causing environmental degradation, intensifying segregation, and undermining the vitality of existing urban areas.

Example- According to the National Resources Inventory (NRI), about 8,900 square kilometres (2.2 million acres) of land in the United States was developed between 1992 and 2002. Presently, the NRI classifies approximately 100,000 more square kilometres (40,000 square miles) (an area approximately the size of Kentucky) as developed than the Census Bureau classifies as urban.

Characteristics: Despite the lack of a clear agreed upon description of what defines sprawl most definitions often associate the following characteristics with sprawl. Mainly its all related to environment and urbanization.

Single-use development- This refers to a situation where commercial, residential, institutional and industrial areas are separated from one another.As a result, the places where people live, work, shop, and recreate are far from one another, usually to the extent that walking, transit use and bicycling are impractical.The degree to which different land uses are mixed together is often used as an indicator of sprawl in studies of the subject..

Job sprawl and spatial match- Job sprawl is defined as low-density, geographically spread-out patterns of employment, where the majority of jobs in a given metropolitan area are located outside of the main city’s central business district (CBD), and increasingly in the suburban periphery. It is often the result of urban disinvestment.

Conversion of agricultural land to urban use- Land for sprawl is often taken from fertile agricultural lands, which are often located immediately surrounding cities; the extent of modern sprawl has consumed a large amount of the most productive agricultural land, as well as forest, desert and other wilderness areas.In China, rural land has been converted for urban development or urbanization to use in advance of demand, leading to vacant rural land intended for future development, and eventual urban sprawl.

Housing subdivisions- Housing subdivisions are large tracts of land consisting entirely of newly built residences.Subdivisions often incorporate curved roads and cul-de-sacs. These subdivisions may offer only a few places to enter and exit the development, causing traffic to use high volume collector streets.


Why urban sprawl is bad ? Because it is associated with a number of negative environmental outcomes.One of the major environmental problems associated with sprawl is land loss, habitat loss and subsequent reduction in biodiversity. All these just for the sake of urban expansion.

Sprawl leads to increased driving, which in turn leads to vehicle emissions that contribute to air pollution and its attendant negative impacts on human health. This is what sprawl means here

A heavy reliance on automobiles increases traffic throughout the city leading to accidents.Residents of more sprawling areas are generally at greater risk of dying in a car crash due to increased exposure to driving.

Urban sprawl may be partly responsible for the decline in social capital. Sprawl creates barriers and tends to replace public spaces with private spaces such as fenced-in backyards. Thus, we shouldn’t have any reasons for urban sprawl to take happen.

Solutions for urban sprawl:

Laws should be enacted, limiting the area urban areas could occupy, through urban growth boundaries.

Transit-oriented development should be initiated in which higher-density mixed-use areas are permitted or encouraged.

Walk-ability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. It is an important concept in sustainable urban design. Thus, we must move towards other types of urban planning instead of urban sprawl.

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