Street trees and safety implications for drivers, walkers, and bikers: a systematic review

Authors: Alicia Coleman*, University of Massachusetts - Amherst, Gregory Labombard, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Theodore S. Eisenman, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: street trees, urban greening, pedestrian safety, bicyclist safety
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Complete Streets have emerged as a prominent aspiration of urban planning, one that seeks to ensure safe access for all users of streets including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit users of all ages and abilities (Zehngebot and Peisner 2014). Concurrently, cities are pursuing ambitious tree planting initiatives and canopy cover goals (Locke et al. 2017), which can yield substantial street tree plantings (Silvera Seamans 2013). This convergence of trends is potentially good news, as Complete Street designs identify street trees as an infrastructural safety buffer between pedestrians or bikers and moving traffic (American Association of Landscape Architecture 2018; Smart Growth America 2016). Yet, traffic planning literature sometimes portrays conflicting findings, where roadside trees can be a safety risk to drivers (Hasan, Othman, and Ismail 2016), while also serving as a traffic-calming tool (Chen 2015). Importantly, there has been little scholarship on the intermodal relationship between street trees and safety for all roadway users, particularly walking pedestrians, bicycle riders, and vehicle drivers. To address this gap, we undertook a systematic literature review. Twenty-five databases were searched July 5–20, 2018 using keywords related to street trees and intermodal safety. The content of the articles was then coded using 27 review categories, with the goal of depicting important traits and findings within and across modes of circulation. We will present preliminary results of this review, one of which being “disciplinary crosstalk” (Vogt 2018), and the need for more interdisciplinary research on street trees and safety.

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