Sunday, March 13, 2011

Brisbane streetscapes new and old

As always these posts reflect my opinions about the topics I discuss, they are written with the knowledge that there are divergent views about every aspect of trees in our urban environment. It is my hope that my ideas are presented in a logical and rational manner and substantiated by the evidence available to even the casual reader.

The efforts to enhance the pedestrian environment are evident many Brisbane streets and are particularly clear when walking from Fortitude Valley train station up St Pauls Terrace.

The planting beds and benches that have been created on both sides of Brunswick Street are looking well established the Kauri Pines have grown significantly and are still young enough to have relatively dense foliage just at the height of the building awnings - visible greenery to the person on the street.

Sure it could be pointed out that in time these trees may well produce fruit that are frustrating to many street users, however leaf flower and seed drop are all part of normal growing patterns, and personally I have little problem with this aspect of trees' life cycle.

These planter beds have managed to reclaim some of the street for pedestrian users from the all powerful and all demanding motor car...and that in itself is (in my mind) a great move forward, to be truely effective there are other factors that have to be managed..but this is a good beginning.

It is interesting and thought provoking to compare this new streetscape with the older streets of St Pauls Terrace and the truely wonderful little Rogers Street.

At the top of St Pauls Terrace there's a line of mature figs which seem to have survived due to the presence of a school in the property fronting onto the street. None fo the attempts to install street trees on the opposite side of the street have been successful.

Rogers Street which also benefits from being adjacent to the school grounds and contains some fantastic examples of Brisbane street figs.

Now there is no question that the new plantings along Burnswick Street are a huge improvement for people (a great many people) passing through the valley, but I am confident that the majority of street users would prefer to be walking under the canopies of these beauties....

Yes I know that these figs are a nightmare for engineers, they disrupt the footpath and the kerb and channel....there's no question about that...

But personally I think it is a cost (and a small one relative to other rewards) worth paying for all the magnificent benefits they bring to our otherwise barren and hostile urban environment.

There are ways that trees like figs can be incorporated into new planned streetscapes, as with many of the challenges we face in city living it comes down to just how much you want something and are prepared to give up to have it.

I really hope as we get dragged kicking and screaming into the realisation of just how messed up our urban lifestyle is and the cumulative negative impacts it is having on everything around us (us included!)..that more and more of us will demand tree lined boulevards that reclaim space for pedestrians and the trees that make those streets places people enjoy, and actually gain benefits from being in.