Streetfilms Shorties: Why Don’t We Plant Trees in the Road?

Clarence recently dug up a few unused nuggets from last year’s junket to Melbourne, Australia. Watch and see how curbside space in residential neighborhoods has been repurposed for plantings that double as traffic calming treatments. Whatever red tape they had to hack through to plant trees in the roadbed, not just on the sidewalk, they’ve hacked through it in Melbourne. Have to say, though, the trees planted in the bike lane (or the bike lane painted around the trees) had me scratching my head.

  • Ive seen that done in Mexico as well. Dc has something similar…but not as good.,-77.020422&spn=0,359.998283&t=k&z=20&layer=c&cbll=38.972355,-77.020566&panoid=NXHW6fE7Zy6Dy6R7yCCKuA&cbp=12,331.21,,0,16.88

    I might even guess that some of those trees existed when the road was paved, and they were just left there.

    As for tree in bike lane…why not? Sometimes bikes need to have their speed reduced as well. Traffic calming works for all modes.

  • Common practice in Germany for over a decade and the streetscaping done with MUCH nicer materials.

    Oh! And how come nobody talks about all the traffic calming and bike/ped facilities in Germany?

    Not just here but like in the entire blogesphere concerning livable streets.

    Really! I’m stumped!

    Shoot! I think the rest of the world has a long way to go to reach where much of Germany is today already. While probably not as completely bikeable at Denmark or The Netherlands (but damned close!), Germany is arguably the most pedestrian friendly country in the world and you here or see NADA!

    Okay Clarence. That’s your next trip. Get Livable Streets to foot the bill and I’ll be you guide. 😉 (I’m only half joking!)

  • Glenn

    Take any side street in NYC and say you wanted to widen the road. You’d move the curb back and maybe leave bump-outs for the sidewalk furniture left in the street – trees included. That’s the cynic in me talking. Who knows what really happened here? Those tree look pretty old…

  • Danny G

    I think the title you were looking for was “Planting Trees: Why don’t we do it in the road?”

  • First of all the most boring bit is that Clarence has offset his air travel by all the work he does, several times over (at least).

    Second, bikes are a subset of trees, i.e. trees are more important than bikes. (In an earlier version of “Lord of the Rings” the Orcs rode bikes but the Kiwi environment ministry asked for that to be changed as not to create a negative impression of cycling).

    # 2 – Third, Andy B! There is no “Germany” in regards to national identity or quality of investructure – a new word I just made up right now by mistake which is – perhaps quite obviously – a mash-up (hipster for the Yiddish “misch mosch”) of investment and infrastructure, i.e. the built environment: I can speak mostly about Berlin and somewhat less about Munich… in the German capital the majority of cycling facilities on major streets (50kph streets) are on former pedestrian space. BAD! Aside from the obvious nastiness of that (risking peds while not slowing down or reducing the space of cars) it makes more timid, less experienced cyclists – and there are a fick of a lot of them – use the sidewalks even on small streets (also because the “car part” of the street might be a little too bumpy for their spoiled arschen). This makes it scary or at least annoying to walk, and the icing on the kuchen is that people don’t understand what a bell is for! At the very least people just accept it but not because of tolerance but – I argue – a misch mosch of being forced to accept oppression and a kind of perverted sympathy for cyclists because the “car part” of the street is in their view, for cars.

    I have lived here for just over a year, but before that seven years in Prague. Even though crossing the “car part” of the street is worse in the not-so-cycle-friendly-but-slowly-getting-better Czech capital, at least one does not have to worry about cyclists on the sidewalks.

    From a cycling consultant and dog-owning “intermodalist” or “post-cyclist”, small letters on purpose.

  • I have some of the same suspicions as Glenn. Some of those sidewalks look pretty narrow.

    On the other hand, there’s some clear chicanery going on in the shot that starts at 0:48, that couldn’t be just from sidewalk trees. I’m guessing that it started as sidewalk trees that got the sidewalk nibbled away from them, and then it became an aesthetic: trees in the road. So then if you wanted to put in a chicane, you could do it with a tree.

  • Just makes me all the happier whenever I see trees planted in the pedesrain refuge areas of the cycle tracks DoT has installed on Broadway, in chelsea and elsewhere. If the forces of evil seek to eliminate those cycle tracks someday, they have to overcome the opposition not only of bicyclists, but also those who like trees on their block.

  • Clarence

    Bicycles Only: Yes, it is very smart. I took video of the cycletracks in Manhattan after installed before the trees and greenery went in. And the difference with the trees is amazing during the full bloom summer. One caveat: i hope we could experiment with some evergreen trees on a to come cycletrack.

    As for if the trees existed before road was paved: my hunch is no cause some roads had very new trees. I just ended up shooting some of this footage one day while exploring and kept running into block after block that had “tree-calming” on them. But I was never able to confirm with anyone as I was shooting other stories.

  • Todd,

    I’ll agree that some German bike facilities are of questionable design but others are superb. On my last trip this May I cringed at the bicycle facilities I saw in Bamberg near the University but they looked like older designs like those in Munich. Newer facilities tend to be much better.

    However my mom’s hometown of Bad Kissingen is a traffic calming dreamscape! The pedestrian amenities are some of the best I’ve seen anywhere only rivaled by other German towns. Since the traffic calming is so complete they don’t even use bicycle lanes in most places since traffic speeds and volumes are so low downtown (outside of the large pedestrian zone). And I’ve got hundreds of pictures to prove it (not on flikr however).

    To top it off, the interurban bicycle network is a dream! There is practically never a need to have to ride on a road shared with cars if you choose not to. Many of these routes use glass smooth paved farm and forest roads, often not even in the same valley as the main motor road. What some German cities and town lack in modern Best Management Practices bicycle lanes they more than make up for it with the interurban routes.

    Also don’t forget Germany is able to do all this while still being a car crazed culture and is the home of some of four of the largest car companies in the world. Talk about political will!

  • #9 – Andy B., the stuff in that small town sounds great — towns like Munster have a high cycle mode share and from what I saw the cyclists in Munich are not as rude as the ones here (but then again Munich is boring) but what you are saying about the interurban routes can be okay, but the cars aren’t touched: For most people a single mode trip by bike (not boost from collective PT) becomes a recreational ride after 5 or 10km tops – that is to say that those interurban routes are about fitness. Urban cycling is a different thing and in cities the political will of the automobile industry triumphs repeatedly.

  • Munich – Boring?!?! That’s crazy talk!

    Then again I’ve never been to Berlin and I’m more of a Philly type of city person then a NYC type of city person.

    I still hear where you are coming from on the need to better accommodate the 5 to 10km commute to work in some cities. However, I found riding in Munich to be pretty nice in most places even if the cycle track designs were a little old (I was last there more than 5 years ago, so things have probably changed for the better).

    Also, Germany as a whole typically ranks around 3rd for highest level of bicycle commuting mode share of Western Industrialized nations, so they got to be doing something right.

    I also don’t feel that “the political will of the automobile industry triumphs repeatedly” in Germany as you claim. True it must happens in Germany more when compared to Denmark or The Netherlands and the Modernist sure did a number on many German cities after the War, particularly in the north, but it is no where as bad as any English speaking country.

    Germany and many other European countries came to the general realization that the automobile was subjugating their cities in the late 1960’s and has work rather hard to rectify that, some cities better than others. Here in the US we are just beginning to make that paradigm shift that Germany made 40 years ago.

    And yes those interurban paths are more about recreation but that can’t bbe a bad thing. Plus a 10km (6 mile) or even 20km (12.5 mile) commute between towns becomes MUCH more appealing when you can concentrate on the sounds of nature and not be forced to listen for the next over taking car, time and time again.

    So, like I asked in my first response, “How come nobody talks about all the traffic calming and bike/ped facilities in Germany at least in the blogesphere?”


    PS – I’m done working this tread but thanks for the feedback Todd.

  • Andy’s observations about Germany are worth paying attention to. And I share his enthusiasm for Munich. There’s more to it than just getting drunk at the Oktoberfest. My partner and I went there last Nov/Dec and had a great time enjoying the car-free space and relatively civil atmosphere on most streets throughout the city. We had similarly positive experiences in side trips to Nuremberg and Stuttgart. I wrote about it in this post (also note Nic’s followup).

  • Adrian

    Melbourne has always planted trees in the middle of roads – as you can see from some of the video, the bike lanes then came later. Certainly the number of trees and planter beds in the road has increased in recent times, but I think that history of trees in the road actually meant there weren’t any cultural issues to be addressed.



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