desire line

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A desire line on the left of a paved path in Parc Central de Nou Barris in Barcelona, Spain


desire line (plural desire lines)

  1. A path that pedestrians or vehicles take informally rather than taking a sidewalk or set route, for example, a well-worn ribbon of dirt cutting across a patch of grass, or a path in the snow.
    • 1947, Missouri State Highway Department; Public Roads Administration, Federal Works Agency [United States], A Traffic Survey of St. Louis Metropolitan Area, [Jefferson, Mo.]: The Department, OCLC 7419242, page 24, column 2:
      The grouping of like trips for all passenger cars, taxi-cabs and trucks resulted in 3580 desire lines, varying in volume from one trip to 5200 trips. It is obvious that if all the desire lines were illustrated graphically on one chart the result would be a maze of lines that would be confusing.
    • 1987 August, Thomas Frick, “Rebuilding Central Park”, in Technology Review, Cambridge, Mass.: Association of Alumni and Alumnae of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ISSN 0040-1692, OCLC 985742712:
      Study participants also drew charts of pedestrian traffic to take note of what are delightfully termed "desire lines" – paths actually made by walkers as opposed to those created on the drawing board.
    • 2003 January 5, Patricia Leigh Brown, “Whose sidewalk is it, anyway?”, in The New York Times[1], archived from the original on 27 May 2015:
      In areas with no sidewalks, beaten-down paths in the grass, known as "desire lines" in planning-speak, indicate yearning, said John La Plante, the chief traffic engineer for T. Y. Lin International, an engineering firm.



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