Blockee

Need ideas for how to better your neighborhood? We've got 'em right here.

Because we know you’re probably not getting much done at the office today anyway ahead of the long weekend, we’d like to introduce you to Blockee, a delightfully time-sucking web app that helps you pimp your street with “civic bling” – or, at least, begin to imagine what that might look like.

Fellows at Code for America have created the game (using the playful equivalent of what Google employees call "20 percent time"). The app pulls in images of your block from Google Street View, then arms you with twinkling icons to reimagine these familiar spaces, with more trees or bike lanes or public benches.

"I wanted them to be really recognizable," says Code for America fellow Tamara Shopsin of the suggested street improvements she’s included in the app. She developed it with fellow fellows Jesse Bounds, Nick Doiron, and Serena Wales. "I wanted them to be something that people could really achieve, like a bike rack – that seems very achievable. Or maybe things that are more whimsical, like a birdhouse, that you can do really easily to better your street."

Code for America hopes, in other words, that you’ll get a kick out of playing with the app, but that the game might also lead to actual civic improvements. The idea originally grew out of more serious discussions in Macon, Georgia (a CfA host city this year) about how to engage citizens in bettering their own blocks. After all, why can’t your street get that new bike rack?

"If people could actually do that," Shopsin says, "that would be amazing."

You can also upload your own images into the game, as Shopsin has done with this now-bedazzled view of the White House:

She imagines that the tool might also be tweaked in the future and put to use for planning and zoning purposes, or for filing 3-1-1 tickets. If you can pick out a spot on your block that’s best suited for a new street light, why not also use the tool to pinpoint for city officials your street's latest pothole or graffiti outbreak? (We would love, by the way, to see what a graffiti icon would look like in Blockee.)

In the meantime, Code for America is still taking ideas for more bling to include (recycling bins? covered bus stops? community gardens?). As with most games, it’s possible to be, well, good at this one. Take some inspiration from this guy, Kevin Roden, who actually took the time to master linear perspective:

We’re also offering a couple examples of our own to get you started. Below is some new and improved street landscaping for Washington’s Lincoln Memorial:

We felt bad for Tampa, which has been picked on a lot this week. So we decked out the city with a bunch of new playgrounds and food trucks.

And here’s a before and after scene from New York’s Times Square.

Ta-daa!

Share your own links below.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    You Can’t Design Bike-Friendly Cities Without Considering Race and Class

    Bike equity is a powerful tool for reducing inequality. Too often, cycling infrastructure is tailored only to wealthy white cyclists.

  2. Amazon HQ2

    Without Amazon HQ2, What Happens to Housing in Queens?

    The arrival of the tech company’s new headquarters was set to shake up the borough’s real estate market, driving up rents and spurring displacement. Now what?

  3. Transportation

    With Trains Like Schwebebahn, No Wonder Germans Love Public Transit

    Infrastructure like this makes it clear why Germany continues to produce enthusiasm for public transit, generation after generation.

  4. A photo of a new car dealership
    Transportation

    Subprime Auto Loans Are Turning Car Ownership Into a Trap

    A record 7 million Americans are three months late on their car payments, revealing what could be cracks in the U.S. economy.

  5. A boarded-up bank
    Equity

    Are Reparations Baltimore’s Fix for Redlining, Investment Deprivation?

    The solutions to Baltimore’s inequitable financing problems must be as radical as the policies that segregated the city in the first place, says Lawrence Brown.