LAFAYETTE — Imagine a tree-lined Bertrand Drive with bike lanes and sidewalks, where one might stroll from shop to shop without having to get in a car or perhaps take a break in an open-air café.
Residents can get a taste of that vision Saturday when a small section of Bertrand north of Johnston Street temporarily will be transformed to serve as a model of how to turn four lanes of concrete into something a bit more friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians.
“It’s a demonstration of what it could be like,” said Lafayette City-Parish Chief Development Officer Kevin Blanchard, who is helping organize the event.
The road will be reduced to two lanes, then lined with potted trees to provide a buffer for the sidewalks and bike lanes marked out with chalk.
Food trucks, a pop-up bike shop, a café and other businesses will line the street.
A fenced area under the Lafayette Utilities System water tower on Bertrand will be converted into a dog park.
The transformation for a day is what’s known as the Better Block project, a real-life demonstration of how a street can be modified to look better and be more inviting to foot and bike traffic.
A similar Better Block project in Baton Rouge on Government Street last year reduced the lanes, added temporary landscaping and bike paths and brought in pop-up businesses along the road.
“Instead of having another plan or drawing or diagram or picture, it allows people to experience what it would be like,” said John Price, assistant chief administrative officer for East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden.
Holden announced in March that many of the changes demonstrated in the Better Block project on Government Street will be made permanent as part of an estimated $6 million to $8 million project to revamp the road from Interstate 110 to Lobdell Avenue.
Blanchard said Lafayette’s Better Block project is meant to showcase a “complete streets” concept that city-parish government plans to encourage in the coming years — the idea that streets should serve not just car traffic but also bicyclists, pedestrians and public transportation.
The section of Bertrand just north of Johnston Street was chosen for the city’s first Better Block project because the area likely will see growth in the future with the development of the 100-acre Horse Farm property on Johnston Street into a central park and major upgrades the University of Louisiana at Lafayette athletics complex nearby, Blanchard said.
“There is so much that will be coming together there,” he said.
Retrofitting roads to be more pedestrian and bike friendly is common in many other areas of the country, and a project completed earlier this year in Lafayette reworked St. Mary Boulevard through the UL-Lafayette campus, replacing two of the four vehicle lanes on St. Mary Boulevard with bike lanes through the heart of campus.
Better Block Bertrand is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between the LUS water tower and Legends.
Participants are asked to park at the Horse Farm property on Johnston Street.