AQ: Australian Quarterly

Follow the Desire Lines Remaking Australia

The key to our future will lie in our capacity to envision this shared future. Visionary thinking – the imagination and expression of the possible – provides a vehicle to engage, explore, critique and discover. These visions help us create new stories about who we want to be.

This article canvases some of the barriers that have held back this conversation in Australia but also highlights two new visions coming from within our civic core that seek to rewrite that story.

Desire Lines discovered

It’s Friday night

The crowd tumbles out of Sydney’s football stadium

Friends and strangers rub shoulders

Soft murmurs permeate the night air – goals re-lived, near misses critiqued

To the left of the Exit sits a lonely folly – an aesthetically beautiful but empty pedestrian bridge

Testament to a planned environment devoid of common sense

Instead, to a person, fans turn right – to tread the well-honed desire line stretching across the grass

With a shared wry smile as we step onto this communally created path, we join the mini rebellion forged by thousands before us.

Desire Lines are variously known as social trails, pathways of desire, renegade passages or pirate paths.

Desire Lines are variously known as social trails, pathways of desire, renegade passages or pirate paths. They are the tracks honed into the landscape by people voting with their feet to create an alternate path to their desired destination. A lovely metaphor for the expression of untrammelled public will.

They tell us much about human behaviour, practical living and communal preferences. As Jane Jacobs, a leading campaigner for people-centred urban planning, wrote in 1958: “[t]here is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.”

This was, in its

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