Road landscaping is that branch of landscape planning which aims at aligning roads in a visually aesthetic manner. Whereas landscape planning is that branch of planning which aims at designing human settlements of all sizes keeping in mind the natural resources such as vegetation, water, air, minerals etc. It aims at making development ecologically sensitive which in turn makes it sustainable. There is a wide variety in the scale at which landscape planning can be carried out. When it is done at the regional scale, the emphasis is on land utilization and locating human settlements with respect to natural resources. Landscape planning can be carried out till site planning level e.g. designing the landscape of group housing. As we move from macro to micro, the landscape becomes more contrived i.e. manmade.
Road landscaping forms an integral part of landscape planning from urban design viewpoint. It aims at making cities and towns more comfortable places to live in, aesthetically and visually more pleasant-looking. Landscape planning takes into account the existing landscape of an area, topography, vegetation, natural drainage patterns, wind directions, temperature, humidity etc. it aims at investing in nature for the benefit of humans. It also studies how strong natural settings are e.g. many more types of settlements can come up in plains as opposed to hilly areas as the former type of terrain offers greater flexibility in development. Mountainous terrain has less dense developments due to physical barriers. Landform dictates the built form to a large extent.
Characteristics and features of Road Landscaping
It is important to landscape roads as they are the channels of movement and it is desirable to make the experience on them comfortable and pleasant. Road landscaping can play a very important role in this. A road should be landscaped suitably with respect to the hierarchy of the road. The height, spread and bulk of the trees should be in proportion with the width of the road and height of abutting buildings. Highways and regional roads are more exposed to winds than urban roads which have buildings around them. Parkways and motorways have developed in North America and Europe. Roads also have recreational and tourism importance. Suburban roads have a greater potential for landscaping due to the greater availability of land. Additionally it serves following purposes:
- Roadside plantation acts as noise buffers. For this purpose, sunken roads can be created as when the noise source disappears, psychological impact of noise also decreases. Mounds with trees can be planted as foliage absorbs noise. For this purpose, trees with thick and dense foliage (evergreens) should be chosen. Dust and other particulate matter settles on leaves which decreases pollution in the air. The leaves through their pores absorb smoke and other gases which further helps in purifying the air.
- Trees have a cooling effect in hot climates.
- Plantation on the median help in decreasing glare from the oncoming direction which decreases chances of accidents.
- When different kinds of trees are planted on different roads, they help in giving the roads an identity which helps people find their bearings.
- Roadside plantation provides shade for pedestrians.
Objectives and consideration while performing road landscaping
The landscape elements should be such that they complement the existing landscape and built structure. Landscaping should not be jarring. It should give the road users pleasant views. On highways, row plantation and trees in clusters can be used. Breaks in between the clumps provide road users with views of the surrounding landscapes. Without changing the width of the carriage way, the right of way can be changed by modifying the footpaths and medians. Landscaping should be harmonious with the existing landscape, but at the same time should provide adequate variety and contrast. Fencing should not be monotonous. The carriageway can be modulated. Intersections are important visual nodes. Selective cutting of trees should take place in such a manner that views are created. Topography can be flat, gently sloping, steep or undulating. Very undulating road alignment can be jarring. It is desirable to have water bodies along roads. Harmony should not lead to monotony due to repetition of landscape elements. Road landscaping should be in context with the surroundings. Surrounding landscape can give cue about the environment.
From safety point of view
- Road landscaping should enhance road safety. There should be adequate street lighting for illumination in the dark. Street lights of correct height should be used at suitable intervals. In squares and plazas, taller street lights are used as they light up a larger area. Plantation should not obscure street lighting, as is seen in some parts of Lutyen’s Delhi in India
- Road landscaping should be such that approaching intersections are seen well in time. Landscaping should be readable and not chaotic. Signage should be adequately large and should not be placed unnecessarily.
- Conflict between pedestrian movement and vehicular movement can be decreased by road landscaping. On the same carriageway, by changing the material for cycle tracks and pedestrian paths, confusion can be decreased and unnecessary use of bollards and railings can be avoided. Intersections can be modified for the same purpose.
From environmental, ecology & urban design viewpoint
- Regional ecology provides opportunities and constraints for road landscaping. Road landscaping should aim at maintaining soil stability and decreasing soil erosion. Because of cutting and filling, the soil gets disturbed. Natural drainage should not be disturbed as much as possible. For this purpose, roads are made on culverts in hilly areas as that does not obstruct the flow of water. Natural vegetation should be used as much as possible as that is most sturdy, requires least maintenance and protects the soil. Regional roads should be designed in such a manner that wildlife is not harmed.
- Road plantation should take care of orientation. Trees planted on the southern side should be tall with dense foliage to block sun radiation. As the sun is not very strong in the north, we can have ornamental plantation on that side. The eastern orientation is desirable. In the west as the sun is lower, thick shrubs should be planted close to one another.
- There should be greater variety in the trees planted along pedestrian paths as they are viewed at a closer distance at much slower speeds. On highways, variation in planting types can be brought about after a few kilometers as trees are viewed in bulk, and not individually.
- Very long stretches of straight roads should be avoided as they can be boring at can put the driver to sleep. Instead, the roads can be slightly curvilinear. This also makes driving experience good.