The careful use of landscaping along a street can provide separation between motorists and pedestrians, reduce the visual width of the roadway (which can help to reduce vehicle speeds), and provide a more pleasant street environment for all. This can include a variety of trees, bushes, and/or flowerpots, which can be planted in the buffer area between the sidewalk or walkway and the street.
The most significant issue with any landscaping scheme is ongoing maintenance. Some communities have managed effectively by creating homeowners associations to pay for landscape maintenance or through the volunteer efforts of neighbors. Others have found them to be unreliable and budget for public maintenance instead. Consider adding irrigation systems in areas with extensive planting.
Choosing appropriate plants, providing adequate space for maturation, and preparing the ground can help ensure that they survive with minimal maintenance, and don’t buckle the sidewalks as they mature. The following guidelines should be considered: plants should be adapted to the local climate and fit the character of the surrounding area—they should survive without protection or intensive irrigation and plant’s growth patterns should not obscure signs or pedestrians’ and motorists’ views of each other.
Landscaping calms traffic by creating a visual narrowing of the roadway. It can also help enliven a commercial district or residential neighborhood.
- Maintenance must be considered and agreed to up-front, whether it is the municipality or the neighborhood residents who will take responsibility for maintenance.
- Shrubs should be low-growing and trees should be trimmed up to at least 8 to 10 feet to ensure that sight distances and head room are maintained and personal security is not compromised.
- Plants and trees should be chosen with care to match the character of the area, be easily maintained, and not create other problems such as buckling sidewalks.
Opportunities for funding landscaping often are more flexible than for major street changes. For example, the cost of the actual landscaping may be paid for by the corresponding neighborhood or business groups. Often, municipalities will pay for the initial installation and homeowners associations, neighborhood residents, or businesses agree to maintain anything more elaborate than basic tree landscaping.