19 November 2021
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The more you learn about street trees, the more you realise just how wonderful they are.

One thing that might surprise you is the positive impact that trees can have on how we drive. Strange as it might sound, there is growing evidence to show that there are fewer car accidents on streets that are lined with trees. Making them safer for pedestrians, cyclists and the residents who live there.

Unfortunately, road accidents are a daily occurrence across the UK, but cycling and other active travel options are becoming increasingly popular, so changes do need to be made to make our streets safe for everyone who uses them.

Street trees offer some interesting solutions to road safety issues – here are some of the ways that they make our streets safer.

Reduced Speed

Reducing speed is one of the most important factors in preventing road accidents from happening. Reduced speed also helps limit the chances of death or serious injury if an accident does occur.

Studies showing that tree-lined streets encourage people to drive more slowly is really positive. The reason this happens may be because a line of trees alongside a road alters our perception of how wide the road is, causing us to slow down. By contrast, a long stretch of open road makes most of us increase our speed.

According to Smart Cities Dive:

‘It’s quite simple; trees help create a natural, visual wall that drivers are constantly aware of.’

Trees also provide a psychological cue that lets us know we’re in an area where people live, making us more conscious of children, animals and the possibility of unexpected incidents. This makes us slow down and pay greater attention to what’s going on around us.

Not only does slower driving make our streets safer, but it also reduces emissions, making them healthier too.

Calmer Drivers = Safer Drivers

Anything that helps to keep us calm when driving will have a positive effect on road safety. For urban dwellers, the daily commute can be one of our biggest daily stresses, causing frustration and road rage that can lead to dangerous decision making on the road. Most of us who drive have experienced that tense feeling when behind the wheel, at some stage!

Research has found that drivers who have a view of nature as opposed to heavily built-up surroundings reported feelings of relaxation.

This isn’t surprising to us here at Trees for Streets, as numerous studies have shown the calming and restorative effects that trees have on our mental health. We’ve written about it in a previous blog post that you can read here.

A Safety Barrier

Without trees, there is little to mark the difference between the road and the pavement, making it more likely for an accident to happen. But by planting a line of trees, you create a safe barrier between cars and pedestrians.

Outside the Vauxhall City Farm entrance, London borough of Lambeth

This safety measure is happening in many places across the world. In the development of The Strand in Liverpool – a busy 2km street connecting key parts of the city – lines of trees were incorporated into the planning stages. The result is a safe and leafy passageway for pedestrians and cyclists through one of the city’s busiest intersections.

In conclusion, it seems like trees may just be the perfect traffic calming measure to keep our streets safe! Not only are they an effective and low-cost solution, but they also bring a host of other benefits to our urban streets. Increased property values, better health and wellbeing for residents and reduced flooding while also making our surroundings more comfortable and pleasant.

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