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Research Recap, March 28: Urban Forestry, Car Crash Pain, Compact Design
The urban forestry of Etobicoke, Toronto.  Photo by Sam Javanrouh.

Urban forestry in Etobicoke, Toronto. Photo by Sam Javanrouh.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Benefits of Urban Forestry

A newly released report by the USDA Forest Service, “Sustaining America’s Urban Trees and Forests,” takes a look at the current prevalence of urban forests, discusses their environmental, financial and health benefits, and offers a comprehensive, long-term plan to help guide cities in their management of urban green space. The report defines urban forestry as “all publicly and privately owned trees within an urban area – including individual trees along streets and in backyards, as well as stands of remnant forest.”  The report cites many benefits of urban forestry, related to the following: local climate and energy use, air quality, climate change, water flow and quality, noise abatement, wildlife and biodiversity, soil quality, real-estate and business, community well-being, individual well-being and public health.

Chronic Car Crash Pain

Car crashes are linked to the onset of chronic pain, according to a new study by Gareth Jones and colleagues at the University of Aberdeen School of Medicine and Dentistry in Scotland. The study found that people who reported being in a car crash had an 84 percent increased risk of developing new onset of chronic pain. No link was found between the onset of chronic pain and any of the other physically traumatic events that were studied, including surgery, fracture, workplace injury, childbirth or hospitalization.  “Further research should focus on the unique aspects of an auto accident and the individual’s reaction to this particular trauma that causes the increased risk of chronic widespread pain onset,” Jones said.

Compact Design Helps Cities During Rising Fuel Prices

CEOs for Cities, an interdisciplinary civic group that works to build successful cities, released a timely report that found compact design and available public transit insulates cities from rising fuel prices. The study examined U.S. federal government data on vehicle miles traveled in 51 metropolitan areas that have at least 1 million residents. The top three cities where drivers drive the fewest average miles per day are as follows:

  • New Orleans (13.7 miles/day)
  • New York (16 miles/day)
  • Sacramento (18.4 miles/day)

CEO and President of CEOs for Cities Carol Coletta says that cities with low driving numbers tend to do well in the following three areas: 1) Land use: people running errands, such as to buy milk, can walk instead of getting in the car and having to park, 2) Urban design: sidewalks or bike trails are designed in such a way that people want to walk, and 3) Transportation: the public transportation network is extensive enough that residents have choices. With the average gas price in the United States at 28 percent higher than a year ago and the average American driver logging 25 miles per day, city investment in these three areas is more attractive than ever.

Portland Proclaimed Most Bike-Friendly City

Portland, Ore. is the most bike-friendly city in North America, according to a recent report prepared for the U.S. Department of Transportation, “Bicycling Trends and Policies in Large North American Cities.” The study examined nine cities in Canada and the United States, analyzing bike ridership levels, safety, infrastructure and policies over a 20-year period. “Portland does almost everything, but it is most notable for its bike boulevards, dense bikeway network, innovative bike corrals, large number of cycling events, and lively bike culture,” according to the Executive Summary. Other cities in the study were Chicago, Minneapolis, Montréal, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver.  The number of bike commuters in Canada rose by 42 percent from 1990 to 2009 and by 64 percent in the United States.

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