Urban sprawl which is also sometimes referred to as suburban sprawl is a concept that is inclusive of the spreading outwards of a city to its outskirts. In other words, it is the unhindered spreading of a city and its suburbs (Hill and Harris). It can also be defined in simple terms as the extension of a city to its countryside especially through improvements in mass public transport. Population growth is the most active catalyst to urban sprawl. The construction of business and residential buildings accompanies urban sprawl. This multifaceted concept has raised concerns in people though it is often thought of as a sign of growth in the local economy. Most people living in urban sprawl areas are in single family housing and get to their places of work by car.
Urban sprawl has various negative results which include high dependence on cars, inadequacy of facilities available, very low support from the public, high costs of infrastructure per person, in efficient layout of streets, high costs of public means of transport, plenty of time lost in commuting, plenty of socioeconomic segregation and racial discrimination, lack of business type diversity and little space left for other fun activities like parks. Despite these negative results, urban sprawl has advantages too. There are more single family residences. Also, land prices are lower and there are higher profits for businesses.
Urban sprawl is often associated with negative impacts and outcomes effecting the environment and public health. The major result is increased use and dependence on cars and other automobiles for commuting. One of the impacts that urban sprawl has had on health and the environment is increased pollution and high level of reliance on fossil fuel. A great percentage of individuals are using cars to commute to their places of work and therefore they spend more time on the streets where there are many cars that cause air pollution (Fiore). The streets and highways they spend most of their time in are crowded and this leads to more dense pollution of the areas.
Also, due to the crowded nature of the cities and the increased reliance on automobile transport, there have been more fatalities that are related to traffic. There is increased traffic and the roads are full of cars. Automobile accidents, pedestrian car injuries caused by cars and air pollution are the leading causes of death in residents between the ages of five and twenty five. There is a higher chance that a resident of a sprawling area will die in a car crash.
In addition, there are increased cases of obesity. People get very little exercise because of the dependence on cars for transport. Walking and cycling are not wise options because of the crowded streets. The living cultures in these areas are centered on cars and the residents use cars to go everywhere. Another result is that there is a decrease in social capital. It is argued that urban sprawl is partly responsible for the decrease of social capital in the United States and, the aim by economies to create self sustainable and compact cities is, in most cases, hindered by urban sprawl since development is unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Also, the quantity and quality of water and land has decreased significantly in areas that have or are experiencing urban sprawl (Fiore). Effects like overpopulation and overcrowding lead to excessive numbers of people sharing the available which in turn makes the resources inadequate for them. Many houses have had to be build and there is very little land left for other kinds of development strategies and infrastructure. In addition, the water resources are being used at a faster rate than they are replenished.
Urban sprawl has had effects on the societies where it has taken place. The effects on the society have both positive and negative aspects but they are mostly negative. Sudden bursts in population numbers have led to available resources being less than what the whole population needs for sustenance. In addition, the society’s economy will be affected too. Public services in these areas have become more expensive due to the increase in demand. As a result, public transport will become more expensive. The city’s planners will have to build larger roads and parking spaces leaving little land that can be taxed and even less for farming (Fiore). The city revenue decreases and makes the areas around it less desirable for people who may want to live in them.
The quality of life in sprawl areas and its neighboring societies is eroded. This is mainly due to the lifestyles that they embrace. The motivation of these societies to keep the sprawls beautiful and maintained is significantly low. The neighborhoods are seen as a means to an end my many of the individuals and the poor design of the areas make people view them as places not worth caring about and maintaining. In addition, urban sprawl tends to attract a particular group of people to the sprawl areas. This leads to the areas being populated by individuals of particular races or standards which will in turn make them susceptible to segregation by the other societies. In conclusion, urban sprawl seems to have more disadvantages than advantages. However, this cannot stop it from happening. The constant increase in population promises more instances of urban sprawl. On the other hand, the effects should not be ignored but ways to keep them in check should be developed. It is a part of development in any growing and should be accepted as a kind of necessary evil.