Roads matter. They define spaces, spur economic development, provide
ways of seeing cities and countryside, and enable generally faster forms of
moving around. While the history of mobility and transportation has paid lots
of attention to automobiles, trains, and airplanes, fewer scholarly accounts
of streets, roads, and highways exist. For one, roads, unlike cars, almost
never become individually owned objects of personal consumption. While
some iconic highways such as the myth-laden “Route 66” in the U.S. exist,
the majority of roads are nameless except for combinations of letters and
numbers. As is the case with so many other everyday technologies, most
observers only notice roads when they are dysfunctional: during traffic jams,
when they contain potholes, during periods of construction and maintenance.
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