Killer Foliage: The End of The Tree-Lined Avenue?

Luxembourg to fell roadside trees in a bid to improve road safety.

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Bettendorf, northern Luxembourg. All photos by @DriveEurope. More below.

Bettendorf, northern Luxembourg. All photos by @DriveEurope. More below.

Along with mountain passes and coast roads, tree-lined avenues must rate high on the wish lists of many touring drivers.

Beautiful they may be but they are also downright dangerous.

Germany cottoned on to this quite early on with the first autobahns.

Originally conceived as a safety measure – to shield the road from wind and snow, in the centre line to protect against glare from on-coming vehicles, and to provide the driver with advance sight lines –it soon became clear that trees near the carriageway were anything but safe, especially as vehicle speeds increased.

By the 1960s, roadside trees were identified as the number one driving hazard and 175,000 trees were cut down in Bavaria alone according to Thomas Zeller’s exhaustive ‘Driving Germany, The Landscape of the German Autobahn, 1930-1970.’

Other countries have taken longer to catch on. Tree-lined sections are still a regular feature along France’s Route Nationales, for instance, and in Balkan countries where the trunks are painted with reflective white rings as a makeshift alternative to street lights at night.

Luxembourg has a long tradition of roadside planting too. The north of the country particularly has endless miles of attractive country roads flanked by lines of well-maintained mature trees.

In recent years however, they have become too closely associated with the country’s struggle to improve road safety. Last week, Infrastructure Minister Francois Bausch finally announced that trees will be removed from alongside a number of roads in the Duchy according to wort.lu.

All is not completely lost but it will take years for the roads to be restored to their former glory. The roadsides will be re-planted albeit at a safer distance from the carriageway with a barrier in between.

Meanwhile, it’s surely only a matter of time before France’s famous tree-lined avenues find themselves under the microscope too. French motorways might be among the safest in the world but secondary road accidents drag the country down to just above the European average overall.

As with everything pleasurable about driving on Continent, you have to enjoy it while you still can.

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Endless miles of tree-lined roads in Luxembourg, but not for much longer.

Endless miles of tree-lined roads in Luxembourg, but not for much longer.

Route Nationale 7 (RN7), Lyon-Paris, near Nevers.

Route Nationale 7 (N7), Lyon-Paris, near Nevers. Trees quite far back from the road, with a safety barrier.

Route Nationale 5, (Geneva)-Dijon, near Dole.

Route Nationale 5, (Geneva)-Dijon, near Dole.

Route Nationale 5, (Geneva)-Dijon, near Dole.

More N5, also near Dole. Not sure that barrier is going to be much help in the event of a smash.

The A10 ring road Berlin. Re-surfaced original Hitlerbahn, note no hard shoulder, but the planting is original, even including trees in the centre line.

The A10 ring road Berlin. Re-surfaced original Hitlerbahn, note no hard shoulder, but the planting is original, even including trees in the centre line. Anomaly in Germany these days.

Northern Bulgaria, I-3, Pleven-Ruse. The trunk bases are painted with reflective white rings. Surprisingly effective at night but the trees themselves are an obvious hazard in the event of an accident.

Northern Bulgaria, I-3, Pleven-Ruse. The trunk bases are painted with reflective white rings. They are surprisingly effective at night but the trees themselves are an obvious hazard in the event of an accident. Coincidentally, or not, many of the countries currently struggling with road safety also still allow roadside planting: France, Luxembourg, and many of the Balkan countries.

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2 thoughts on “Killer Foliage: The End of The Tree-Lined Avenue?

  1. Interestingly, there also seems to be some studies that suggest, perhaps counterintuitively, that tree lined roads can sometimes reduce car accidents.

    It seems that trees can make people feel a higher risk, and therefore drive more carefully.

    I think it’s important to understand that, so we don’t accidentally make our roads more dangerous, with our good intentions.

    “Mok, J.-H., H.C. Landphair, and J.R. Naderi. 2006. Landscape Improvement Impacts on Roadside Safety in Texas. Landscape and Urban Planning 78:263-274.”

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