A few weeks ago I read a friend from Warsaw's blog about 'Elephant Paths'. I won't repeat/copy all of her blog post, so if you want to read it click here.
Essentially an 'Elephant Path' is a shortcut that people take to get them from a to b whilst ignoring the more conventional route. If you Google it you'll find there's different metaphors for the phenomenon, from 'Easy Way' in Hindi, to 'Donkey Trail' in French. Wikipedia (fountain of all knowledge) refers to them as Desire Paths - here's their definition
"A desire path (also known as a desire line or social trail) is a path developed by erosion caused by footfall"
Since I read Gill's original blog post I've become slightly obsessed with trying to spot them in and around Canberra. The Wikipedia link here gives some instances where planners have actually based the positioning of footpaths on where people WANT to walk rather than where they would like them to walk. It all seems to make a lot of sense to me.
There's a desire path/elephant path/shortcut near where we live which cuts through a large grassy area and the back of someone's hedge. It's a really well worn path and (despite efforts to barricade the hedge with old posts, branches, clippings etc) people have continued undeterred to find the shortest route between where they are and where they want to go.
Last Saturday I also noticed that the grassy area outside of our local swimming pool was full of 'elephant paths' I've grown to love the rebellious nature of them - going against the desire of authority to take us some (less convenient way).
Here's a couple of (my pics) together with a link to a flickr site if you want to get obsessive about it all as well..Long live elephant paths!