Growing up in Canada, I didn’t realize that building custom animal crossings over/under highways wasn’t standard practice. I now know that the Trans-Canada Highway wildlife crossings have served as science-based inspiration for averting human and animal deaths on roads all over the globe.
As we consider how we will change our relationship with mobility by building streets friendlier towards ride sharing and pubic transportation we can’t forget the rest of the creatures we share the planet with.
If you’ve even come close to hitting a deer you’ll know just how terrifying the experience is as a driver. For many species of animals their survival is being threatened by road moralities, in the US alone there are 21 species including Key deer in Florida, bighorn sheep in California, and red-bellied turtles in Alabama.
It’s not just animals who are injured and killed, there are 1 Million car accidents cause every year and according to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 200 of those resulted in a fatality.
These crashes are expensive, too: Deer-car collisions cost an average of $8,190, an elk-vehicle collision is about $25,319, and a moose-vehicle collision is $44,546, taking into consideration human injuries and death, towing, vehicle repair, investigation of the accident by local authorities, and carcass disposal, according to a paper from the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University.
Europe is not as far behind as the US is when it comes to implementing traffic spanning bridges and tunnels. France was the first in Europe and the began in the 1950s. These bridges look like a regular overpass for cars but are covered in greenery and they aren’t very noticeable unless you wonder where the road is going and the notice there isn’t one.
And under-crossings, which pass beneath highways to assist shyer and smaller animals, may be invisible to drivers. But they’re helping countless species, from gold monkeys and pumas in Brazil to water voles in London.
There are lots of crossing yet to figure out for wildlife around the world. Asian elephants in Bhutan need a space place to traverse their territories during migration. It would be cheaper and easier to do road construction than it would be to retrofit roads like Canada has done.
Above is a photo of Banff National Park. Installing bridges for bears and tunnels for tortoises have significantly reduced the number of wildlife-car collisions worldwide.
It’s not just in rural areas where the movement of animals needs to be considered but in cities as well. There is an interesting Medium series that takes the concept a little far but I do like the starting place as a frame work for considering animals in our smart city design.
We’ve seen city design modified to keep pigeons away, the installation of spikes on building facades has become standard. When we look at visions of the future when it comes to smart cities pets are the furthest we usually get when we look at plans.
Building in green areas woven through out a city is key to animal mobility, retrofitting abandoned spaces like the High line in New York or where the wall stood in Berlin is key to green maintaining spaces.
Having recently visited both of these areas it’s also clear that what is great for flora and fauna is great for tourism. As we find cool examples of how animal mobility is being enabled globally we’ll share them, if you have one that interesting, leave us a comment. We’d love to check it out.