Street Trees

Before and after pictures of streets with and without trees are the most compelling reason for planting them. But beyond the obvious beauty of trees lining a street there are also some solid practical reasons for planting them. Below are five reasons from the article “The Benefits of Street Trees” by Liz Dunn.

Typical tree lined street before Dutch Elm disease.

1. Cars drive slower on streets lined with trees.In the March 14th edition of the Seattle Times Pacific Northwestmagazine, former Seattle city arborist Marvin Black points out that traffic moves more slowly on streets lined with trees. Trees have a calming effect, and drivers are at least subconsciously aware that where there are trees, there are often pedestrians and children playing.In his book Great Streets, the internationally known urban planner Alan B. Jacobs notes that wide streets where the buildings are small and set back lose their definition, unless this effect is mitigated by lining the street with trees. Otherwise it feels like a transportation corridor, not a place where people live. Jacobs also cites research showing that for many people trees are the most important single characteristic of a “good street”.2. Street trees reduce noise from traffic.Street trees reduce the amount of engine noise created because drivers go more slowly. A line of large leafy trees can also absorb a great deal of noise. Even a line of smaller trees can be enough of a buffer to block traffic noise from reaching private yards and homes.3. Residents walk more on streets lined with trees.

When cars drive more slowly, pedestrians feel safer. In addition, curbs and trees provide a physical and psychological buffer between sidewalk and car traffic that increases this feeling of safety. The busier the street, the more this safety buffer is needed. And of course, trees provide an environment in which it is more pleasant to walk – something attractive and green to look at, shade in the summer, a canopy from rain in the winter.Another thing that happens when we plant trees is that people can no longer park their cars up on the sidewalk. How often have you tried to walk down a street where a car has pulled up onto the planting strip and sidewalk, forcing you onto the street? The whole neighborhood benefits when people get out of their houses to walk. Residents are more likely to meet up regularly with their neighbors, to keep an eye on each other’s property, to use their local parks and to patronize local businesses.4. Trees improve air quality.Trees consume carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. In general, the more trees we plant, the better air we breathe.5. Street trees increase property values.

In his book City Comforts, local urban planner and author David Sucher says, “Even streets of modest houses gain a grandeur and presence when treed. Old money need not be the only ones to have old trees.” Streets with trees look more stable and prosperous. Families with children are more attracted to a neighborhood where they can picture themselves going for walks and letting kids play on the sidewalk. A neighborhood that looks cared for, with visible sidewalk activity, experiences less crime and especially fewer break-ins. Of course, it is important to select a tree species that will thrive with minimal maintenance and will not block sunlight and views.Sucher estimates that street trees can boost the value of each home on the street by at least $1000 to $5000. In their pamphletBenefits of Trees, the International Society of Arboriculture estimates that the improvement in curb appeal due to street trees increases real estate values by 5-20%. Reprinted from “The Benifits of Street Trees” by Liz Dunn.