What makes a block better? For each location we here at Team Better Block find it means something different to the community and progress of active transportation and urban quality. Every project brings innovation and new understanding of how to transform the built environment to be more human. It is great to see communities taking the open sourced Better Block approach to revitalization. Cheers to all of you that have had the courage to do one and those that are planning one now. To aid those going forward we have devised the Better Block Top Five:
#1 Make the street safe and shared. If it is four lanes, make it two. Think about first channelizing and slowing the car, make it safe for pedestrians first, then bicycle, but keep it open to cars.
Wichita KS created a NYC style pedestrian plaza, crosswalk, cycle track and bike lane.
In Philadelphia folks re-sized the street using "straw wattles" to create bulb outs and painted a crosswalk.
#2 Embrace the identity of the block and neighborhood. Your block is not the next French Quarter. Identify the local food, history, culture and quirkiness and highlight it through programming and signage.
In a blighted part of South Dallas, we identified strong pride for BBQ and Gospel. The Better Block celebrated these and made a destination.
#3 Make it better for 8 and 80 year olds. It doesn’t take much to extend an invitation for people to stay and linger in your better block.
Before TV we played games and sat on the front porch.
In San Antonio we transformed a park that usually only had bums with 40oz bottles into a playground with tire swings.
#4 Program the street, but not too much! Pairing your event with an art crawl or food event expands your reach. Better block can transform a normal event into a destination.
Street fairs, markets that close streets and other events can be transformed into a better block by simply keeping the street open, using pop-up shops and making entertainment informal, like busking.
From pop-up tent to pop-up business, activate the fascade and make your street pop!
#5 Cheap food and movable chairs. Don’t discount the placemaking and comfort of a hot dog stand and folding chairs.
Hot dog stands or taco carts can keep people around longer. Orientate them toward the street and create seating areas nearby.
If using food trucks create a court that fronts the street and creates an outdoor dining room.