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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Column: It’s time to pave UC Davis’ desire paths

Dangerous, muddy paths around campus need an overhaul

By OWEN RUDERMAN — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 

When most people think of UC Davis, they think bicycles, and for good reason: The infrastructure of paved pathways around campus make it easy to get around on a bike. In reality though, many UC Davis students commute, take the bus or walk to school. The sidewalks and paths for these students are much less numerous and developed than those made for cyclists. It’s easy to see this difference just by looking at the number of desire paths around campus.

 A desire path, also known as a bootleg trail, is a path that results from erosion by foot traffic. These dirt walkways usually represent the shortest or most easily-navigated route between an origin and destination. You can think of them as student-made shortcuts that have emerged because constructed paths are inefficient or non-existent.

UC Davis is heavily saturated with desire paths — I’m willing to bet that if you walk to class, you use one every time. Routes from the Parking Garage to the ARC, the roundabout to Hoagland Hall and the Bus Stop from Hunt Hall are just a few examples of popular desire paths. At first glance, these makeshift walkways seem harmless. However, a variety of factors can actually make desire paths hazardous to students.

The paths are usually straight lines to the desired destination, and as a result, they sometimes cut though places that students aren’t meant to walk. One example is the path to Hoagland Hall, which pierces right through a bike path. I’ve personally seen many students (myself included) almost get hit by a bicyclist while taking this particular trail. If the desire path was paved and marked by the school, the potential danger of the path would be greatly reduced.

Additionally, as I’m sure many of us have noticed, it’s begun to rain. Rain doesn’t affect paved walkways around campus too much. Sure, there’s an occasional puddle, but your shoes get nothing more than slightly wet from walking on paved paths. Desire paths are a different story. Because they are dirt, they can become extremely muddy and slippery. Nobody wants to risk ruining their shoes and clothes or falling and hurting themselves just to get to class on time. 

Some might make the argument that students just shouldn’t use desire paths if they don’t want to get hit by a bike or muddy their shoes. But if you think realistically, you will recognize that students will always take the shortest, most convenient route. 

If a popular desire path was deemed too dangerous and was closed off without a new pathway to replace it, students would just create another bootleg trail. For this reason, the school should pave over and mark existing desire paths, forcing bicyclists to yield to pedestrians who cross there. 

The planning for the path has already been done by the students — now all UC Davis needs to do is pour some asphalt on the dirt paths and mark it up with some paint or signs. The school could cut down immensely on all the potential hazards that arise from these shortcuts by paving the most popular desire paths — likely over this coming summer break, when sunny weather and decreased student traffic will make it most convenient. UC Davis needs to go with the flow of traffic and pave over the campus desire paths.

Written by: Owen Ruderman — opruderman@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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