Testing Out a Better Block

  • 10/15/2014

Think about your favorite block in the town where you live and/or work.  Why is it your favorite block?  What makes it an inviting and comfortable area for you?

Now, think about a not-so-inviting or not-so-comfortable block.

Wouldn’t you like to see this second block become more like your favorite block, with different opportunities for folks to experience?  Wouldn’t it be great if this block were active with people and a variety of destinations?  What if there are no people and no destinations because there is no safe space for them—there is mostly space to drive and park cars and trucks?

Have you ever imagined what you would do with that second block if you were a developer?  Or what business you might start in that empty storefront with the great old ‘50s architecture and the perfect checkerboard tiles you can see through the dusty windows?

Last Friday (Oct. 10th) a group of Greensboro organizations banded together to not just dream up what if’s, but to put these dreams on the pavement—well, temporarily at least.

Action Greensboro, PART, New City Ventures, The Forge, synerG,  The Elsewhere Museum and Preservation Greensboro conducted a Better Block demonstration as a part of the NC Bike Summit held at UNCG.  The event was conducted at Hamburger Square (the intersection of McGee and Elm) and the section of McGee which goes under the railroad and joins with MLKJr. Drive on the south side of the tracks.

The Better Block included a road diet, street greenery, a pop-up book store, a bikeshare demonstration station (provided by B-cycle), a pop-up bike shop (provided by Trek Bicycle of Greensboro), a food truck, outdoor seating, public art, a shoeshine station, live music....

For several weeks before the Better Block, PART planners worked with Greensboro Department of Transportation engineers on an approved road diet for the study area.  This diet included closing sections of two different lanes, adding a 5 foot wide bike lane and bike sharrows, shrinking widths of remaining lanes to 13 feet, and adding one stop and crosswalk to access an underused parklette.  All changes were in step with NC DOT Complete Streets guidelines.

The entire area was open to vehicular traffic from 10 till 5 to 8PM to study how well traffic (ped, bike and cars/buses) adjusted to the changes.  It was a resounding success.  All traffic moved smoothly through the area.  Please view this video.

A special thanks to area businesses, including Lowes Home Improvement on S. 40 Drive in Greensboro and Sedgefield Interior Landscapes, who donated materials for the Better Blocks project.

Event set-up was covered by Fox 8 News.