Urban expansion has become a widespread trend in developing countries. Road networks are an extremely important factor driving the expansion of urban land and require further study. To investigate the relationship between road networks and urban expansion, we selected Beijing, New York, London, and Chicago as study areas. First, we obtained urban land use vector data through image interpretation using a remote sensing (RS) and geographic information systems (GIS) platform and then used overlay analysis to extract information on urban expansion. A road network density map was generated using the density analysis tool. Finally, we conducted a spatial statistical analysis between road networks and urban expansion and then systematically analyzed their distribution features. In addition, the Urban Expansion-Road Network Density Model was established based on regression analysis. The results indicate that (1) the road network density thresholds of Beijing, New York, London, and Chicago are 18.9 km/km2
, 37.8 km/km2
, 57.0 km/km2
, and 64.7 km/km2
, respectively, and urban expansion has an inverted U-curve relationship with road networks when the road network density does not exceed the threshold; (2) the calculated turning points for urban expansion indicate that urban expansion initially accelerates with increasing road network density but then decreases after the turning point is reached; and (3) when the road density exceeds the threshold, urban areas cease to expand. The correlation between urban expansion and road network features provides an important reference for the future development of global cities. Understanding road network density offers some predictive capabilities for urban land expansion, facilitates the avoidance of irregular expansion, and provides new ideas for addressing the inefficient utilization of land.
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