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Urban Sprawl

  • By: André Sorensen
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The term urban sprawl should be understood in the context of a deep-seated and ongoing conflict over differing visions of and priorities for the development of urban regions, between those who see contemporary suburban land development patterns as a good thing and those who see them as a major social and environmental problem. The meaning and image of urban sprawl are contested and are thus continually evolving, but most discussions of urban sprawl identify a number of common characteristics, including low-density residential development on the urban fringe, segregated land uses that give rise to long-distance travel and dependence on automobiles for mobility, and leapfrogging of development over undeveloped areas.

Although critiques of urban sprawl have become increasingly prominent during the past three decades, concern about patterns ...

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