In looking at the stories, several interesting points are made that show that this is not an easy issue for many people. Here at Gravel Grinder News, our perspective on gravel roads is that they provide a serene, back to nature, simpler approach to cycling. They are a respite from modern rush, chaos, and are perfectly suited to be courses for competition, challenges, or recreation on a bicycle. That's our view, but it isn't the only view on gravel roads. Here are some things that stood out for me in reading these stories.
- Paved roads deserve preservation and gravel roads are a cause for concerns over driver safety: Nostalgic feelings for roads are not new, but it did come as somewhat of a surprise to me that there is a "National Center for Pavement Preservation at Michigan State University, whose director, Larry Galehouse, is quoted as saying, in regards to the return to gravel, that "...we're leaving an awful legacy for future generations". Drivers are feared for by the AAA, as seen in this statement,"None of these decisions should be made overnight," said Chris Plaushin, director of federal relations at AAA. "I think that gravel brings some conditions that they may not be used to. The drivers are going to have to exert a little more caution."
- Residents along the formerly paved routes do not like the idea, understandably. Dust and dirt hang in the air and get on things which does cause concerns.
- Even though converting a road to gravel can cost up to three times as less as it does to patch up asphalt in a year, some are not convinced the counties will actually save money. John Habermann, from Purdue University, who recently organized a seminar entitled, "Back To The Stone Age" in regards to the resurgence of gravel roads, is quoted as saying, " A gravel road is not a free road." He states that continual grading, rock replacement, and other upkeep would outstrip the costs to consistently maintain an asphalt road.
- Others feel that letting paved roads go back to gravel roads is a "step backwards" and a reflection of a downfall in our society.
In other cases the roads maybe should be eliminated altogether. And it also bears mentioning that while some paved roads are adding to gravel mileage, some gravel roads are being completely eliminated as well. Counties are taking out mileage where there is no need to service farms anymore, or where natural disasters have washed out bridges in rural areas making it too expensive to fix what has been damaged. Budget constraints are affecting all roads, and gravel roads are not exempt from being truncated, or eliminated altogether.
It is an interesting time for those of us who love to travel gravel by two wheels!