BENEFITS OF URBAN TREES
Research shows that tree-lined streets in urban areas increase safety for motorists and pedestrians alike. Regardless of the posted speed limit, people tend to drive at whatever speed "feels" comfortable to them, and this is highly dependent on the characteristics of the street. Tree-lined streets appear narrower and subconsciously encourage motorists to reduce their speeds.
Statistics vary depending on the study, but most research concludes that tree-lined streets reduce car crashes by 5 to 20 percent. Every prevented car crash keeps more people safe, and the lower speeds make the car crashes that do occur less likely to be fatal.
In addition to reducing car-on-car crashes, tree-lined streets also keep pedestrians safe. A tree's deep roots keep it anchored in the ground and prevent out of control cars from ending up on the sidewalk.
Not only do urban trees keep pedestrians safe by creating a physical barrier between the sidewalk and the road, but urban trees also make pedestrians healthier. In the hot summer months in Texas, the average high is 97 degrees, though it is increasingly common for temperatures to hit the triple digits. Concrete absorbs heat and can get 30–40 degrees hotter than the air temperature, meaning that concrete in direct sunlight on a 91 degree day can hit 125 degrees! These outrageously high temperatures can quickly lead to heat exhaustion and can burn dogs' feet. Urban trees address this risk by shading sidewalks and reducing the temperature for pedestrians.
In addition to keeping people and pets cooler, urban trees naturally absorb harmful pollutants and produce fresh oxygen. If more people opt to walk or bike rather than drive so they can enjoy their tree-lined streets, their are fewer car emissions, which further reduces the area's carbon footprint.
On top of their environmental impact, trees can have a large economic impact. A 2005 study in Modesto, California, showed that 20 percent shade on concrete improves pavement conditions by 11 percent, which translates to 60 percent cost savings over 30 years. Shade provided by trees protects concrete and reduces the frequency of maintenance, which directly saves taxpayer money.
Shoppers indicate that they are more likely to travel further and commute longer to go to a shopping area lined with trees. Furthermore, shoppers are willing to 9–12 percent more on goods and services in shopping areas with lush trees.
Urban trees make a positive impact on homeowners. Tree canopies shade houses and reduce energy bills, especially in the hot summer months. The presence of trees can also increase a house's value by 2–15 percent, which can result in thousands of extra dollars when a homeowner eventually sells their property.
All the statistics about traffic safety, health, and economic impact are important, but at the end of the day, urban trees are about reconnecting with nature. For people who live and work in cities, an abundance of trees offers an opportunity relax and unwind. Trees make a statement about a city, and every beautiful city deserves beautiful trees. Urban trees provide homes for birds and squirrels, they provide a sense of calm to passerby, and they provide a connection to the larger world.
In a concrete jungle, it's nice to have some trees.