Bruno Kelly/Reuters

A lesson in an essential element of summer.

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Cities are growing at a faster rate than any other habitat on the planet, as Planet Earth II noted in its “Cities” episode. Sure, describing cities as a “habitat” is a little jarring, but the urban landscape is so much more than people, buildings, and roads. Everything from preserving wild forests to creating planned public parks from scratch reveals how much we strive to remain part of nature.

With benefits including reduced crime, improved health, and increased home values, urbanist parlance can quantify the gains from these natural “amenities.” You might say nature’s true value can’t be measured, but even those feel-good thoughts have science backing them up: It really is good for you.

From the CityLab archives:

Andrew Small


Summer Icon: The Road Trip

An animated map shows the growth of the U.S. Interstate Highway system.
(GeoTab)

The road trip is a classic staple of American life—there’s even an obsessively detailed map of cross-country travels in American literature. But despite the cliche, roadside attractions and novelties continue to fascinate, from awesome diner food to jaw-dropping rest stops. Last summer, our CityLab on the Road series detailed the towns and characters that sprung up along the Lincoln Highway, the first cross-country road in the United States, dedicated in 1913.

In 1956, the U.S. began building a much more ambitious—and sometimes infamous—countrywide road network: the Interstate Highway System. The map above from Geotab, a GPS-based fleet-tracking management company, shows how the network evolved over time to become a nationwide system of more than 49,000 miles, making road journeys accessible from nearly any city. President Eisenhower’s massive public works project marked a dramatic shift in United States road building, from constructing public trails that connected cities to massive highways that gutted them. While that wasn’t the plan at the start, some scholars have argued that the Interstate Highway System should have been two separate systems: roads between cities and roads within cities.


Ground Numbers

330 million: Visitors to National Park Service parks in 2017

1.3: Square miles in New York City taken up by Central Park

17: Square miles in New York City taken up by on-street parking

$5.82: Estimated public benefit delivered for each dollar spent planting trees

50 million: New trees Britain plans to plant to create a coast-to-coast forest

10 billion: Tons of concrete produced around the world each year


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