Desire Lines - An Interlude


A desire line is a path developed by erosion caused by animal and/or human footfall. The path usually represents the shortest and/or most easilly navigated route between an origin and destination. The width and amount of erosion of the line represents the amount of demand. Desire lines were used in early transportation planning, prior to the advent of computerized models.

They are manifested on the surface of the earth in certain cases, e.g. as dirt pathways created by people walking through a field, when the original movement by individuals helps clear a path, thereby encouraging more travel. Explorers may tred a path through foliage or grass, leaving a trail 'of least resistance' for followers.

Similarly they may be seen along an unpaved road shoulder or some other unpaved natural surface. The paths take on a rather organically grown appearance by being unbiased toward existing constructed routes. These are almost always the most direct and the shortest route between two points and may later be surfaced.

Desire lines can usually be found as shortcuts in places where constructed pathways take a circuitous route.

Many streets in old cities began as desire lines which evolved over the decades or centuries into the modern streets of today.