I couldn’t help but smile as Jason Roberts described the scene.
The founder of Team Better Block was working on a project in San Antonio, Tex., and there was an antique shop owner who was vehemently opposed to the prospect of a bike lane on the six-lane arterial. Roberts knew theoretical talk about the benefits of bike would do nothing to tip the scales.
Instead, he went the business owner, chalk in hand.
He grabbed some orange cones, stood out in front of the antique shop and showed the skeptical owner — in real time — how he could keep his car parking and have bike infrastructure, too.
That’s how Team Better Block rolls — showing as much as telling how streets can be redesigned to benefit bikes AND businesses.
San Antonio is just one of the many communities that has invited Roberts and Team to literally transform economically depressed corridors into vibrant urban centers. In just a few days, the Team works with community members to identify tools and tactics to, as Roberts says, “stitch communities back together” by addressing the massive gulfs created by streets designed solely for cars. Then, they put those ideas on display, using chalk, cardboard, cones and all manners of creative tools to re-imagine the streets in real time and tangible terms. Finally, they invite the community to see, experience and celebrate the potential of their shared streets.
More often than not, seeing the transformation in action — and the impact on local business — turns even the staunchest opponents of bike infrastructure into the most vocal supporters.
It’s a revolutionary concept — and one that we’re excited to share as a workshop at the National Bike Summit.
Of course, we’re not the only ones in D.C. who have taken note of the Team’s impressive accomplishments. Last year, Roberts was honored by the White House as a Transportation Innovator and Champion of Change. Read more about his work — in his own words — here, and register for the National Bike Summit today!
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.