We like to think of 20th Street North as Birmingham’s living room. It’s our main street, where people come together from all over the city, region, and even the country for a distinctive Birmingham experience.
In the best of times, useful outdoor spaces are key to a vibrant and successful urban environment; the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased their importance.
With that in mind, the City of Birmingham’s Department of Transportation and REV Birmingham are planning a refresh of 20th Street North that will better serve pedestrians as well as the businesses that line our main street.
20th Street North is technically one very wide lane, but it has always functioned more like two. Traffic typically moves on the left and lots of other uses—from valet to delivery to construction supply storage—happen on the right.
Now it’s time to formalize the flexible usage of that right lane with paint and policy. The creation of a flex lane is an exciting and tangible step in the implementation of the 20th Street refresh plan.
What’s a flex lane?
A flex lane is a section of roadway that can adapt to different uses based on the needs of the community. The idea of the flex lane is to formally sanction the “as needed” functions of 20th Street North’s right-hand lane. This will create a buffer to make pedestrians safer, reduce vehicle speeds, and allow businesses to make better use of this sidewalk adjacent space.
Remember Parking Day 2020? That was us testing just a slice of 20th Street North for plans that could be rolled out to the whole street! We surveyed passers-by that day, and 100 percent of survey respondents said they loved the flex lane concept for 20th. Take a look back at an early rendition of the 20th Street refresh on a quarter block!
Soon the first section of flex lane will be striped with colorful paint in a vibrant geometric pattern on both sides of 20th Street North between 1st and 3rd Avenue North. The flex-lane-testing area is compact but, of course, is larger than the quarter-block section we tested on Parking Day. Starting small allows us to develop best practices and respond to feedback on the potential design and uses as the City and REV continue to plan for the larger project footprint.
Here are some of the ways that the new flex lane can be used:
- Passenger pick–up and drop–off
- Curbside pick-up zones
- Outdoor dining, like 2020’s Eat in the Streets (Temporary Shared Space Permit required)
- Parking for food trucks (with permit)
- Valet parking stands
- Loading and unloading of goods (no longer than 10 minutes)
The Rainbow Viaduct, one of Birmingham’s oldest bridges, has been transporting people between the south and north sides of downtown for more than 130 years! Now as we look toward its future, you’ll see a pilot project on the bridge to make it more pedestrian and cyclist friendly while we determine the best next steps.
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In less than a year after arriving in the United States, the Vyshyvanyuk family, who recently fled from Ukraine, is now launching NiEl’ Bridal Atelier, a custom wedding dress and alterations business in Forest Park. Olena and Mykola Vyshyvanyuk, along with their three children – Viktoriia Vyshyvanyuk, Eva Vyshyvanyuk, and Loanna Vyshyvanyuk – made the courageous decision to leave Ukraine on November 7, 2022. This family’s inspiring story serves as a testament to the boundless opportunities that small businesses can achieve in Birmingham.
Are you a startup looking for a foot in the door? Did you know we have an accelerator program that helps founders begin their entrepreneurial journey right here in the Switch district? TechStars is a dynamic three-month program that empowers entrepreneurs in their quest to discover product-market fit, gain traction, and access both capital and global mentorship. Operating in more than 30 cities worldwide, Techstars added Birmingham as a host for their energy-focused cohort.