Overview

A. P. Wolleswinkel and C. F. Jaarsma

A rural road network creates many contradictions. The presence of a well-developed road network in a region is a conditio sine qua non for economic development and efficient access to and use of land resources. Accessibility of rural areas and mobility for the rural people are also social aims. Simultaneously, the presence of the road network and its traffic flows often can have harmful effects. The problems that are encountered in this context may be approached in two ways: quantitatively and qualitatively. Both aspects occur everywhere, but may have especially large effects in less developed countries. Remoteness, isolation, and inaccessibility are the key characteristics of many rural regions in Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America. A lack of sufficient roads, both qualitatively and quantitatively, results in a bad transportation system, leading to economic and social losses. Another problem in these countries constitutes the impacts due to the disturbed balance between the road functions and maintenance. In industrialized countries, the quantitative aspect is less important than the qualitative aspect. Emissions and noise affect local people, flora, and fauna. There also is the problem of traffic safety on rural roads with low capacities, because of high traffic speeds.

Terms such as remoteness and isolation vary with national living standards. In Australia, the extensive use of air transport and radio links brings the most distant farm into easy communication with essential services. On the other hand, in much of Southeast Asia, even the bicycle is beyond the means of many villagers. Thus, these terms need to be handled with caution. It is too complex to restrict these terms to developing nations alone [1].

In the next sections, a substantial distinction is drawn between industrialized and developing countries. The latter nations must deal with mobility problems that differ from those in the industrialized countries. In most developing countries, at least two-thirds of the population still can be classified as rural, although densities vary considerably according to levels of economic activity. In Nigeria, for example, rural densities of 400 persons per km2 are recorded in the southeast region, whereas the drier interior savannahs support densities of only 20-30 persons per km2. If rural isolation is interpreted in terms of the absence of roads for cars, then 196 million village dwellers in India belong in this category. A survey of 16 provinces in Indonesia indicated that 30% of all villages had no link to the road network [1].

Many nations, however, find themselves in an intermediate position between the two extremes of being industrialized or developing. Within these countries, the levels of isolation and remoteness in rural areas can vary substantially. In nations in the Middle East and Latin America, for example, the mobility is relatively high in some rural areas but inaccessibility is still a severe problem in other regions [1]. Eastern European countries, with economies in transition, face the problem of rapidly growing car ownership. At the same time, the existing road network needs structural changes to serve the new forms of land use and the related land layout changes.

Where this chapter deals with roads, it should be realized that a road is not a goal unto itself. Roads are only constructed to serve traffic and transportation. Both traffic and transportation are derived functions. They strongly depend on local land use (location and type of activities). Simultaneously, all human activities are strongly dependent on the road network. In this way, there is a narrow relationship between spatial planning, land-use planning, and the planning, construction, and maintenance of the road network. This holds for both urban and rural areas.

This chapter is divided into three main parts. Section 3.2 addresses the fundamentals of rural roads. It explains rural road structure and the density of networks. Then traffic problems are discussed in the context of the need for traffic planning. Section 3.3 discusses in greater depth the motives and perspectives for rural road planning. Examples of planning systems and cases are described to give an adequate view into the international planning for rural roads. In Sections 3.4 and 3.5, respectively, basic principles of road construction and maintenance are presented and discussed.

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