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Wings of desire

Wings of desire

First Site : 2017-10-24

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When does a desire line become a walking path?

In order to avoid quoting wikipedia I’m going to quote – they say that a desire line is “A path that pedestrians take informally rather than taking a sidewalk or set route; e.g. a well-worn ribbon of dirt that one sees cutting across a patch of grass, or paths in the snow.”

A perfectly good definition I’d say, and above is a very nice one in Vienna; and yes, if you look really closely you can see Harry Lime’s Ferris wheel in the middle distance. I do wonder if there was always a gap in that hedge or whether pedestrian desire created it.

And above is another nice one seen on my travels, not as well-worn as many – it’s outside the library in Ely, Nevada, birthplace of Patricia Nixon (Ely – not the library).

The one above is clearly a walking path, actually part of the Essex Way, an 82 mile walking route from Epping to Harwich. Obviously there’s no sidewalk (pavement) and other routes across that patch of land would be possible but none so direct, and if you're walking 82 miles you don't want to do too much meandering. You might think a desire line is the shortest route, and perhaps also the path of least resistance, though in this case that applies to the walking path.

So imagine how intrigued I was by the path above, seen just outside the boundary of Griffith Park. It was leading off from a street I know pretty well but I’d never noticed it before. I thought it might be some indirect way into the park and it seemed pretty inviting so I started walking on it.
It was, you’d have to say, a disappointment. It runs for maybe 30 feet then takes a sharp left and then you see a gate:

It’s the entrance to somebody’s back yard, and the owner understandably wants to keep out wandering riff raff. If the path had been perfectly straight and I’d been able to see the gate from the street I wouldn’t have even set foot on the path. I wouldn’t have had any desire.
Some contradictions to be worked out there.

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