It’s not just road users and pedestrians who can be injured or even killed on our roads – it’s estimated that 30 million birds, 100,000 foxes, 50,000 badgers and 50,000 deer are killed every year.Embed from Getty Images
When you take into account the number of unrecorded animal road deaths, the realistic death rate is estimated to be 70 million animals every year. Road building can have a devastating impact on habitats too.Embed from Getty Images
With a growing population, and more and more road users, how can we improve road design to save our furry friends and the wider environment? Let’s check out some ways we can change how we design, build and use our roads to make them better places for wildlife and the environment.
1) Protecting frogs
Let’s start with frogs.
We know that frogs and other amphibians typically follow the kerbside along roads, as they are naturally inclined to move along vertical barriers.
This can lead them straight into roadside drains, where they could get trapped.
To help we could make a wider gap between drains and the kerbside, creating a safe route past them.
Or, we could place escape ladders inside the drains!
Although that might sound like something from a cartoon, it’s an idea that’s being developed for real – a bit like having ramps in ponds to help hedgehogs get out.Embed from Getty Images
Something else that could protect amphibians and other animals is to think more carefully about the materials used to make roads.
Did you know some types of concrete are dangerous to our froggy friends?
Technology can create safer concrete polymers that reduces harm.Embed from Getty Images
3) Animal crossings
Most animals move around to find food and water – some just a few feet, others many miles.
This might mean they have to cross man-made barriers like roads.
As you’ll know, crossing roads is something you have to do carefully. Safe crossing places are important.
So, creating safe crossings for animals between their habitats is something road designers factor in.Embed from Getty Images
These crossings don’t have guiding beeps and a green man – or even a green fox to help!
They might take the form of bridges and tunnels, and guide walls to direct animals to cross at safe locations.
To make them even more animal friendly, they’re planted with a variety of trees, shrubs and other vegetation.Embed from Getty Images
We have to think about how to keep animals safe from construction.
As well as being dangerous places that can harm animals, construction sites can affect their breeding and migration patterns.
Something as simple as strong fences around sites can help keep animals safe.Embed from Getty Images
5) Protecting natural habitat
When it’s really not possible to reduce the impact to habitats and animals, we can at least protect and cultivate what remains.
Legislation can protect natural habitats from clearance and building works.
We can design new roads to fit the countryside better.
For example, tunnels rather than cuttings help to maintain landscapes and habitats and keep areas of outstanding natural beauty safe.Embed from Getty Images
Let’s time travel to the year 2050…
How about this for some blue-sky thinking? Scientists have been trialling drones for dormice – a way of carrying the critters safely up up and away… and over some of our busiest roads. Don’t forget your seatbelts dormice!
…aaaand we’re back in 2023.
Well… maybe NOT drones for dormice – or not yet! As you can see, not all future solutions have to be complicated – it’s simply taking on the challenges of protecting the environment in a sustainable way and coming up with solutions.
You could be part of the change. We want you to use your imagination and think about how you would design safer roads for animals who live around them, and how we could protect their habitats and the wider environment?