Shaw Street in Petersham is a good example of a good green street that has a lot of traffic. It’s not a wide street, yet tall reasonably closely spaced street trees have been planted.

We know that vehicle-related pollution & particulate matter is a public health issue as these can cause respiratory & heart illnesses/diseases & increased incidences of death.

In 2010, research from 700 worldwide health-pollution studies found that traffic pollution within a 500-metre radius of a major thoroughfare was likely to –

  • Exacerbate asthma in children
  • Trigger new asthma cases across all ages
  • Impair lung function in adults &
  • Could cause cardiovascular illness & death.  See –

We also know that street trees help improve air-quality by removing some of the vehicle-related pollution & particulate matter from the air.

Thanks to research published in June 2012 by researchers at the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University  we now know that that this level of pollution removal is actually much higher than previously thought, making humble street tree & other street vegetation more important than ever for human health.

Previous studies thought street trees captured less than 5% of air pollution from vehicles. The small percentage may have given an out for Councils not to have street tree planting as a priority.  However, this study from the Lancaster Environment Centre has shown that –

  • increasing deposition by the planting of vegetation in street canyons can reduce street-level concentrations in those canyons by as much as 40% for nitrogen dioxide & 60% for particulate matter.
  • Deposition rates of nitrogen dioxide & particulate matter to vegetation are much higher than those to hard, built surfaces.
  • Substantial street-level air quality improvements can be gained through action at the scale of a single street canyon or across city-sized areas of canyons.
  • Vegetation will continue to offer benefits in the reduction of pollution even if the traffic source is removed from city centers.”

I love what this property in Stanmore has done with the area along the laneway outside their house. You see this type of area often & mostly they are left to the weeds.

What wonderful research.  It clearly shows that the budgetary spending by Councils needs to be much higher for planting street trees & increasing the urban forest as trees are very much a public health issue.

Adding street trees & other vegetation should be a priority along main roads, secondary main roads & along shopping strips.  Verge gardens, pots filled with plants, green walls & hanging baskets are examples of vegetation that help to remove vehicle-related particulate matter.

As we know, street trees & other greenery also improves human happiness as well as increasing spending by around 11% along leafy shopping strips (by happy people).  Concentrating only on diet & lifestyle issues is not the only consideration public health should be looking at. Green streets full of street trees & other vegetation where trees cannot be planted is an important & vital step to ensuring a population can remain healthy.

Busy Glebe Point Road Glebe is a great example of a green shopping strip. It looks like this for most of its length. Where trees can’t be planted the City of Sydney Council has suspended large hanging baskets or reclaimed a parking space to plant a street tree. It look great & feels great too.  

Marrickville Road shopping strip with its few deciduous street trees always strikes me as bare

This section of very busy New Canterbury Road Petersham has looked like this for at least 3 decades.