Why are the streets of many inland country towns so ridiculously wide?

While there are plenty of exciting points of interest awaiting city-dwelling grey nomads as they venture into Australia’s historic country areas, one that is rarely discussed is the sheer width of many rural roads.

Compared to the cramped confines of the metropolitan streets of Sydney, Melbourne, Peth, Adelaide or Brisbane, many country towns have simply gigantic roads.

Even taking into account the fact that there is more space to play with in rural areas, the cavernous dimensions of some streets still appear excessively extravagant.

But have you ever asked yourself ‘why’?

The ABC recently carried out an investigation into this very thing and the broadcaster concluded there were several possible reasons. These include:

wide streets
  • To give a sense of importance to the streets of country towns and differentiate them from the Sydney settlement with its narrow, dingy streets;
  • Bullock train manoeuvres: to provide space for a dray to do a U-turn;
  • Health implications: wider boulevards with the option of tree plantings down the middle allowed for more open space and the free flow of air to rid the town of ‘miasmas’;
  • Stock routes: on country roads there were some rules and regulations that set out a road reserve of up to five chains wide, or 100 metres, to allow for the passage of livestock;
  • Military logistics: in the event of a rebellion in a town, the wide streets would be suitable for the cavalry and cannons to be brought in; and
  • Cart and carriage parking: to give enough space for horse-drawn vehicles to pull up alongside buildings.

Grey nomad membershipIn part, the wide roads remain in most country towns simply because there is space to allow it, and because the pace of development meant there was not pressure to encroach on the road reserves.

For grey nomads eager to add the town with the widest street in Australia to the Big Lap ‘to-do list’, the New South Wales town of Trundle is the unofficial wearer of the crown.

“It is 66 yards — or three chains in the old measure — which is the same width as a stock route,” Danielle Ward, licensee of the community’s only pub, told the ABC. “Trundle was a spot where bullock teams used to stop over and that’s why they say it’s so wide you can turn a bullock team around in the main street … you can turn a road train for that matter.”

  • Have you been struck by the width of streets in country towns? Which towns have made the biggest impression in this regard? Email us here to share your thoughts.



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