Sociology Criticisms of Urban Sprawl

Urban sprawl (otherwise known as suburban sprawl ) is defined as irresponsible, poorly planned development which destroys greenery, crowds schools, increases traffic dramatically, creates a significant rise in air pollution and pushes taxes up. Urban sprawl also means the spread of urban areas into rural areas such as farmlands, coastal lands and forests which lie on the outskirts of cities. In layman’s terms, urban sprawl is characterised by developments which increase the distance between the core of the city and its outer edge. Unfortunately the boundaries of a city eventually stretches outwards. More often than not, the development which is taking place in outlying areas extends far beyond existing infrastructure and necessary services such as medical, dental, educational facilities, public transport, hospitals, banks and so forth.

The new housing developments which sit on the outskirts of the city lack convenience and brings about a host of negative responses from critics. Those residing in the outlying areas, (many with young families who have no other option than to take advantage of cheap land for housing) now know the true meaning of inconvenience, frustration and stress. Urban sprawl causes overcrowding of limited services, increased traffic congestion, more car accidents, an increase in road rage and increase in fossil fuel usage. Add to that the loss of vast open spaces, the destruction of natural habitats, loss of homes to wildlife and one then starts to understand that criticism of urban sprawl is very warranted. Valuable farmland becomes almost non existent and the urban pollution is almost toxic. In less developed areas, the problems can become life threatening. In most cases, 50% of the population of urban sprawls live in substandard housing. This is due to a load of unauthorized building as well as very poor urban infrastructure.

Due to the lower cost of constructing urban homes, the sub standard system often increases poor hygiene and sanitation systems when overextended. One also notices the lack of education and health facilities. But the reasons for urban sprawl criticism does not stop there. Urban sprawls make people so very dependent on motor vehicles to get to out of the way places such as those mentioned above. Therefore a plethora of people become obese, lazy and unhealthy. Urban sprawls also increase the pollution to our air, water and land. As urban sprawl increases in size more motor vehicles are required. The more motor vehicles on the road the higher the smog and pollution level rises. Urban sprawl destroys in excess of two million acres of farmland, parkland and open space yearly. Traffic flow increases and neighbourhood streets and highways become filled to the very brim with exhaust smoke, noise pollution and frustrated, stressed out drivers. Sprawls give us no other option than to drive just about everywhere we wish to go. In fact, the average American driver spends approximately 55 eight hour work days behind the wheel of their car annually.

Unfortunately urban sprawl tends to drive away economic resources from existing communities. Tax payers end up subsidizing millions of dollars worth of water and sewer lines, new roads, increased policing, fire protection and new schools at the sacrifice of core communities. The older towns become neglected and true eye-sores. They become the sacrificial lambs. Urban sprawls are well known for their ugliness and garner a load of criticism for this indeed. Cheaply slapped together copy cat style houses, appeal to very few people but those living on the very edge of poverty. On the other side of the coin are those who purchased stately mansion style homes outside the cities, many of them can no longer afford to drive to and from work because they have no mass transit. Fuel costs have eaten into their savings and many are losing their much loved homes. Travel becomes excessive due to having to drive through so many more suburbs to get to work etc. And the lovely greenness they initially fell in love with is now a plateau of box houses. But urban sprawl does see people socializing well, meeting up and sharing quality time together, neighbourhood barbecues and so forth. Urban sprawl, love it or hate it, it’s here to stay.