What is Urban Sprawl?
Also known as suburban sprawl, urban sprawl is the spreading of a city and its suburbs over rural land at the fringe of an urban area. Residents of sprawling neighborhoods tend to live in single-family homes and commute by automobile to work. Low population density is an indicator of sprawl. Urban planners emphasize the qualitative aspects of sprawl such as the lack of transportation options and pedestrian friendly neighborhoods. Conservationists tend to focus on the actual amount of land that has been urbanized by sprawl.
The term urban sprawl generally has negative connotations due to the health and environmental issues that sprawl creates. Residents of sprawling neighborhoods tend to emit more pollution per person and suffer more traffic fatalities. Sprawl supporters claim that consumers prefer lower density neighborhoods and that sprawl does not necessarily increase traffic. Sprawl is also linked to increased obesity since walking and bicycling are not viable commuting options. Sprawl also negatively impacts land and water quantity and quality.
Urban Sprawl is the increased use of urbanized land by fewer people than in the past. Traditional cities were compact and efficient, but over the past 30-50 years, the density of land used per person has declined drastically. Although the U.S. population grew by 17 percent from 1982 to 1997, urbanized land increased by 47 percent during the same 15 year period. The developed acreage per person has nearly doubled in the past 20 years, and housing lots larger than 10 acres have accounted for 55 percent of land developed since 1994, according to the American Farmland Trust.
A study of urban sprawl between 1970 and 1990 that calculated the impact of population increase and per capita land use found that 307.7 square miles of additional land were consumed by urban sprawl in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, and 46.8 percent of that sprawl was attributable to population increase. In the Tulsa metro area, sprawl consumed an additional 124.3 square miles and population increase accounted for 46.7 percent of the increase.
Check out this video about "New Urbanism" that explains what it would be like to live in a way that would not exploit the land on which we live, but explore and enjoy it.
Impacts of Sprawl:
1. Loss of farmland ~ More than 13.7 million acres of farmland in the U.S. were converted to non-farm use just between 1992 and 1997, according to United States Department of Agriculture. This figure is 51% higher than between 1982 and 1992.
2. Loss of wildlife habitat
3. Increased air pollution
4. Increased water use and pollution
5. Increased energy consumption
6. Social fragmentation
7. Noise Pollution