Not all asphalt has to go into roads and parking lots.
The vast majority of asphalt paving in the country goes into roads and parking lots. Well, 94% of the roads in the US are made from asphalt, so the number is must be pretty high. About 85% of all asphalt produced is used as a binder in road asphalt concrete. That’s a lot. The rest of the vast majority (10%) is used in roofing – the sealing and weatherproofing in many roofs comes from asphalt binder. That leaves just 5% for other uses. Almost all of the rest is used in sealing and insulating.
So most asphalt is accounted for in building roads and waterproofing…but what else is it used for? Believe it or not, asphalt, as simple as it seems, can be used to benefit communities in non-traditional ways. Some of the best ways to benefit a location aren’t always massive infrastructure projects. Sure, installing a sewer system/water treatment, internet and phone lines, and building roads are important for developing any community. However, there are some much more subtle and easy ways to spur development and improve people’s lives. And one of those things require asphalt.
Trails, also known as greenways, are paths built for people o enjoy. Usually these paths are in natural areas, by beaches, in forests, or across prairie. They can also go through parks and nearby neighborhoods. These paths typically don’t allow motor vehicles, but they do allow foot traffic, bicycles, roller blades and skates, and other self-propelled means of transportation.
Why build a trail system?
Good question. What benefits do trails provide that roads don’t? In fact, most people could probably think of the problems that trails don’t solve more easily.
- Vehicles can’t ride on them, so they can’t be used to transport too many people or things.
- They are often windy and indirect, so they don’t get people where they want to go efficiently.
- They tend to be in remote areas, so they don’t take people where they want to go.
- Trails are for leisure, not utility.
These are all fair points, but they miss the main point of trails: they are good for people. Trails benefit people’s mental and physical health, and thus provide an over all benefit to the communities that they are in.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the benefits of trails and greenways. Asphalt and paving is for more than just cars.
Across all ages and other demographics, when people are nearby trails, they get out more. The benefits to leading more active lives results in happier people and a more productive population. Additionally, the lower medical costs of dealing with healthy people as opposed to unhealthy people means trails can pay for themselves over time.
- Trails help control weight and diabetes, as well as cholesterol levels and bone loss associated with aging.
- The low-impact exercise that is easy to find on trails helps decrease risk of cancers, and helps reduce anxiety and depression.
- Easy access to nature is enables people to relax. Studies have shown that spending time in nature does wonders for the mental health of everyone across the board.
- Short trails enable people to easily get some exercise while going to and from work, school, and or shopping.
- Trails provide pretty and accessible locations where children can play. Children’s health around trails is improved because they can find places to exercise and play more easily and in nicer settings.
- A study cited in this in-depth look at trail benefits from the Rails to Trails Conservancy showed that 70% of trail users reported being more active thanks to trail systems nearby.
Trails also provide a boon of economic bonuses to wherever they are. Some of them are in savings (such as lower medical costs in the area because the population is healthier), but many come in the form of increased spending. The ways trails benefit the economy are myriad.
- Trails increase the property values of nearby homes and businesses.
- Trails influence business locations and other decisions. As cycling has grown in popularity across the US, numerous restaurants and bars have opened up in otherwise tiny towns. Where did they open? Where cyclists from nearby communities pass through their towns. On longer trails, shopping centers (for trail supplies), and hotels open in order to serve those on long trips.
- Trails boost spending at local businesses. People come to enjoy trail systems. Along the way, the need to eat and drink too.
- Trails provide alternative transportation options. This means people can live happily without cars sometimes. Benefits include:
- Fuel expenses are lower.
- Reduced levels of carbon emissions in communities with trails.
- Less traffic/traffic jams.
- Less space required for parking and roads.
- Less environmental impact (fewer roads, traffic, fuel consumption, and parking space required) over all.
- Trails create higher demand for the areas they are in. They do so because trails make an area more attractive for people to visit and live in. This has several effects:
- Revitalizing depressed areas. Low income individuals without cars can more easily get around, have jobs and more.
- Increase property values (as mentioned above). By creating more demand in an area, buildings that were once vacant can be brought back and the whole neighborhood will see the benefits.
- The money saved from lower medical expenses is also an economic benefit to a community.
Trailblazing the way to healthier communities
Here at Reliable Paving, we are interested not only in doing the best jobs we possibly can do on your paving project, but also benefiting your community. We are socially responsible paving contractors who keep up with the ways in which we can benefit you, ourselves, and the world around us. If you are interested in improving your community by bringing in some extra money and making people healthier, contact us for your trail paving project today.