Better Block

September 30th, 2016 - October 2nd, 2016

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In October of 2016, AARP Vermont partnered with Team Better Block an over fifty community volunteers, multiple organizations and the Town of Bethel for the first Better Block project in Vermont. The project is a real time example of the AARP Livable community principles and basis for the further revitalization of this wonderful town. Working with key property owners, advocates, designers an residents the Team conceptualized ideas for landscaping storefront facade improvements, and programing to the area. The concept plan imagined temporary intervention using materials that can be borrowed, built and bought for a weekend event to reveal the true potential of downtow Bethel. These included a blue lane, a parklet, bulb outs and crosswalk enhancements, and beautification elements built by the community.

The Better Block improvements created a livable street. One that you can still drive through, albeit slower, and you really want to explore. The street was made safe for everyone. A few indicators provided metrics to support permanent changes. Travel speed is the best indicator of a street’s safety for pedestrians. The faster the car, the more likely of death if struck while walking. Team Better Block and AARP volunteers conducted a before and after speed study of Main Street in Bethel. Before the Better Block speeds on Bethel Main Street in downtown averaged 27 MPH. At this speed, it is likely almost half of pedestrians struck by a vehicle would not survive. This proves that the community was correct in identifying safe crosswalks as a major priority. During the Better Block a culmination of the traffic calming measures that include pedestrian islands, bulb-outs, crosswalks, blue lane and parklets, reduced speeds to an average of 15 MPH. During the Better Block, Main Street became the equivalent of a quiet library, registering just 40dB. This is a direct result of the traffic calming measures nearly halving the travel speeds and reduced heavy truck breaking and accelerations. At this dB you wanted to gather on the sidewalk, eat a taco and talk to a neighbor.

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