Urban Forests Make Safer Streets

Thursday, October 8, 2020
As leaves change this time of year, it’s obvious that urban trees make our communities more beautiful, but did you know they also make our neighborhood streets safer? Streets lined with trees tend to encourage slower driving and statistically have less accidents than those without[1]. And it’s not just speeds that are lowered by their presence – they also contribute to lower stress levels in drivers, leading to less road rage[2].

How does a simple stretch of trees have such a magical impact? According to the Federal Highway Administration, the presence of tree canopy along a street provides a narrowing speed control measure by creating a “psycho-perceptive sense of enclosure” that discourages speeding[3]. When drivers feel like they’re in a smaller, closer space – like a tunnel, or a canopied street – they drive slower than when driving through open areas. Additionally, the presence of greenery naturally calms us, whether we are consciously looking at it or not[4].

You probably already knew the list of benefits urban trees actively provide our communities is long – but the list of their passive benefits continues to grow as well! So whether you’re out and about browsing fall foliage or trick-or-treating with the family this October, know that your community trees are helping to make your stroll safer (and your air cleaner, and your streets cooler, and your sidewalks drier…).
  1. Mok, J.-H., H.C. Landphair, and J.R. Naderi. 2006. Landscape Improvement Impacts on Roadside Safety in Texas. Landscape and Urban Planning 78:263-274.
  2. Parsons, R., L.G. Tassinary, R.S. Ulrich, M.R. Hebl, and M. Grossman-Alexander. 1998. The View From the Road: Implications for Stress Recovery and Immunization. Journal of Environmental Psychology 18, 2:113–140.
  3. US Department of Transportation 2015
  4. Knopf, R. C. 1987. Human Behavior, Cognition, and Affect in the Natural Environment. In D. Stokols and I. Altman (eds.), Handbook of Environmental Psychology, Vol. 1 (pp. 783-825). Wiley, New York.