'Better Block' demonstration taking place downtown on Friday

'Better Block' demonstration taking place downtown on Friday

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - If you take a trip down Lakeshore Drive in Lake Charles, you'll see a crew of volunteers spray painting the road.

Why?

It's all in preparation for the "Better Block" demonstration on Friday.

They are painting temporary bicycle and pedestrian lanes, as well as creating traffic-calming measures and quality of life improvements, like community gardens, coffee shops and cafes.

John O' Donnell, coordinator for a Healthier SWLA, calls this a "complete street."

"A 'complete street' is a street that's designed not only for cars and freight, but also for bikes, pedestrians and public transportation; it's a street for everybody," said O'Donnell.

The event, in cooperation with the Spring Art Walk, aims to promote growth of healthy and vibrant neighborhoods -  what some would see as a "utopia."

"When I think of a 'utopia,' I think of that ideal, that shining city on a hill that you strive for but you don't necessarily achieve; this is something that we could have tomorrow and that's the point," said O'Donnell.

But not without a little hard work from the crew of volunteers, who all feel very passionate about the cause.

"I ride around town a lot; I grew up downtown, which is great for bicycling, but I moved south of town and there are zero sidewalks most of the time," said volunteer Ross Dupre.

"I am a runner and a cyclist and I just think that Lake Charles needs more pedestrian-friendly roads; it's very dangerous whenever you try to ride a bike or even walk or run around here," said volunteer Kayra LaFleur.

"Really, the complete street concept - being able to move people, not cars, is really important as a quality of life issue a health issue. It's really great for our community that we have a lot of community support. It's not coming down from government agencies - the parish, the city - we have every municipality behind it," said volunteer Jessica Duhon.

The support includes the City of Lake Charles.

"I think it's been a dream of Mayor Roach for a long time to make that connectivity between the downtown core and the lakefront. And we know Lakeshore Drive has always been a barrier for that and just in the last few minutes, as we see cars move through the corridor, they're slowing down; they're paying attention to what's going on and I think it's going to be a great demonstration as we continue to build out and develop more; it's going to be a better connectivity between the city public land at the Civic Center and the downtown proper," said Lori Marinovich, the city's assistant director of planning.

The alternating lane closures began at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 24 for the outside northbound lane and outside southbound lanes of Lakeshore Drive between Broad and Clarence streets.

Many businesses are volunteering time and resources to support the demonstration, including Prien Pines Nursery, Empire of the SEED, Garden Path Groceries, Tallgrass Farms, Century 21 Bessette Realty, Acadian Coffee Roasters, O'Neal's on Wheels, Lake Charles Pit Bull Rescue, Southern Bike, Bike Superstore, and Pops & Rockets.

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