Complete Streets, Trees, and Green Infrastructure

Urban trees and green infrastructure have new competition.  The concept of complete streets is to provide access and travel for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclist, motorist and public transport  users of all ages and abilities. This movement has become very strong over the last few years.  In my small town of Decatur, GA several streets have already been redesigned with complete streets in mind (see photo below).  Yesterday I attended a bicycle rally at the capitol in Atlanta, GA where people chanted "complete streets" over and over again. The problem is that trees are rarely considered as part of the complete street despite many studies that outline the benefits of trees as a source to slow traffic and off set excessive storm water via green infrastructure.  After placing the recreational pathway, sidewalk, cars, parking, and bike lanes, there is little room for trees. Are complete streets and trees incompatible?  Decent overstory trees need the space to grow.  Solutions might include bulb outs in place of a parking places and bridging roots under the sidewalks.  All the same, it is important to design complete streets with trees in mind, otherwise we will end up with highways of imperviousness that provide no vertical element to slow traffic and provide little shade. 

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