One of the hazards of road travel is the tire debris. If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many pieces of metal-lined rubber along the side of the road, it’s the result of retreading. While retreading is cheaper and perhaps more environmentally friendly (clearly someone in the tire industry wrote the Wikipedia article!) than building new tires from scratch, I find the resulting debris to be a hazardous and ugly feature of our nation’s roadways!

During our recent road trip, I finally heard first-hand one of those semi tires blow out. It was on the other side of the freeway and, by the time I looked over (quickly, as I was driving!), I could see a cloud of what looked like dust and shrapnel around the truck. There was one smaller car nearby and I couldn’t tell, in that one, brief glance, whether or not their windshield or paint job was a casualty of the encounter.

Another type of road debris is dead animals. We saw dozens of armadillo carcasses in Oklahoma and Missouri, gradually shifting over to raccoons and deer as we headed further east. I did a bit of research on my phone and discovered that part of the reason so many of the armadillos were alongside the road—as opposed to being squashed upon it—is that a defense mechanism they developed (long prior to the advent of the automobile!) is to leap straight into the air. While this can confuse traditional predators, all it does is guarantee direct contact with the front of a car, followed by a long flight….

My rather macabre brain came up with a fitting haiku for this element of our trip:

Armadillos give
Way to coon and deer corpses
Cross-country roadkill

At home in Arizona, Pima County is nearing completion of a major expansion of Tangerine Road, north of Tucson. This has involved the widening of a roller-coaster-like two-lane road into a smoother, four-lane “landscaped parkway” that includes a handful of wildlife crossings. These bridges work in tandem with extensive fencing to funnel wildlife toward underpasses created just for critters—and for the flash floods that come with our summer monsoon rains.

On last summer’s road trip, I pondered my mixed feelings about all the bugs that ended up dead on the bumper of our car. I appreciate the desire to preserve the lives of our fellow creatures through these wildlife bridges—even if the intent is as much to avoid human accidents and fatalities!

I would also appreciate legislation to prohibit retreading—all that tire debris can become an airborne problem very suddenly, without warning. I am grateful that we survived our road trip unscathed by any type of debris.

What “retreading” do you do in your life? Do you consider all the impacts of your actions, or only how those actions might benefit you personally?

What are you and your community doing to preserve the lives of the creatures that live alongside and among you?

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