Better Block Builds Momentum for Complete Streets


According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, 466 regional and local jurisdictions, 27 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have adopted policies or have made written commitment to do so. Complete streets is largely an engineering policy that, according to the National Complete Streets Coalition website, “ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind — including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”

Wichita KS created a NYC style pedestrian plaza, crosswalk, cycle track and bike lane.

Wichita KS created a NYC style pedestrian plaza, crosswalk, cycle track and bike lane.

Assuring transportation professionals  that designing for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users is a good idea and one that can be done safely is a great first step, but that is not enough to make a better city. Cities need more partners to make investments in complete streets worth the effort. They need citizens and business owners to ask for better streets and for those streets to perform well in terms of safety, economics and quality of life.

“The design of a street is only one part of the equation. How the abutting business address and uses the street and how connected neighborhoods feel to the street will make it thrive.” — Jason Roberts

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San Antonio TX tested back in angle parking with a bike lane.

Team Better Block is often asked to consult on Complete Street projects. Our Build a Better Block Process boost the community and business owners’ understanding of the benefits of streets that are balanced between cars, bikes, people walking and transit facilities. Communities that have integrated a Better Block into Complete Street projects, such as San Antonio, TX; Dallas, TX; Wichita,KS and most recently Saint Paul, MN site that policy adoption occurred faster and with greater enthusiasm.

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Saint Paul MN temporarily installed a two way cycle track on a State Highway.

Fear is often what holds back change in transportation. The thought of removing vehicle lanes and replacing them with bike lanes or cafes is some times enough to kill a project even when engineers have tested the project successfully using computer travel models. Nothing beats the experience of seeing a street transformed from auto dominated to balanced one.

What is really propelling the projects we work on to greater success is the inspired new advocates and re-engaged troubadours of safe streets. Over a pallet bench making session or duct tape bike lane creation new contacts and relationships are formed in the community. Moreover, visitors to the better block get excited about the possibilities.

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Brownsville TX takes public outreach out of the townhall and into the streets.

Better blocks typically last only a few hours, but those few hours are a snap shot of a future perfect for a block. A safe street that serves all modes safely, vibrant shopping, inspiring public art, play for kids and adults and that feeling that you may have only got on vacation to Europe that your block is special and you could see yourself retiring there. Yet, quicker than it was constructed it all comes down. The dramatic removal of the bike lanes, cafes and chess boards stirs citizenship. You can bet that the next public meeting on Complete Streets will be filled with new faces that are eager for changes to their block.

 

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