On an early spring afternoon, I decided to stroll down George Street in New Brunswick, the heart of the city’s commercial activity.  I’ve walked and biked down this corridor countless times, but have rarely taken time to observe its specific characteristics.

The stretch that I focused on, between Albany Street and New Street, is well separated with limited points of access.  Through observation, this important commercial corridor appears more and more isolated from the rest of New Brunswick, making it difficult for pedestrians from more residential areas to enjoy the local businesses.  As seen below, the crossing of Albany street no easy task:

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The long cross across Albany (27)

However, once past this barrier, walkers can enjoy a wide sidewalk, with numerous street facing businesses, shops and restaurants including.  This variety offers residents and students with ample options for dining and shopping, which perfectly complement the entertainment offered by the nearby State Theater and George Street Playhouse.

Despite these positive elements, George Street is troubled with crippling traffic and parking concerns.  The narrow street does not offer on street parking.  However, street parking as well as multilevel decks are located on intersecting streets, like on Church and Patterson Streets.  Although these help house the plentiful car traffic, it is another factor that leads to the isolation of the strip.  The George Street strip is surrounded by parking facilities, which further separate the commercial zone from the rest of New Brunswick.

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Another downfall is a lack of bicycle accessibility.  Ironically, the street has numerous bike storage racks, but hardly any space to ride on the road.  Seen below, the streets are narrow, and dangerous for bikers especially during rush-hour periods and when bus traffic is high.  For this reason, biking is rarely seen on this strip, and even local students and residents will drive downtown, and park rather than bike or walk, promoting the unsustainable habit of driving downtown.

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Bike racks, and an un-bikable street

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Bikers take advantage of the afternoon lull in traffic

Finally, George Street almost completely lacks public space. The only two “public” spaces are Heldrich Plaza, and Kilmer Square; the latter being completely fenced off to the public.  These spaces, which are in high pedestrian-traffic areas, are not being utilized.  For example, Kilmer square, located adjacent to Starbucks, and very close to other eateries, could be used by residents and workers as a public place to sit and enjoy a break.  Aside from the few benches along the sidewalks, George street offers no such space (that is open for public use).

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The closed off Kilmer Square

Despite these pitfalls, and almost getting hit by a car, I enjoyed my walk/bike down George Street, as I always do.  It offers a pleasant change of scenery with a lively atmosphere.  Urban spaces will always need certain improvements, and no place is perfect.  I learned that although a lot could be done to improve the space, it is still enjoyable for what it is.

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