1. city block

I have heard the word "block" used many times to give directions or to determine how far/close a place is from a given starting point. However, not each block is necessarily the same distance.

Is it correct to say that the distance from one street to another street is one "block"?

2. Re: city block

Yes when you're in the part of a city that is set up (more or less) in a grid.

There are some short blocks and some long blocks. The larger the city and the more regular the street grid, the more uniform the size of the blocks.

Note that a "city block" means the entire area bounded by the four streets on each side. If a building takes up an entire city block, it's generally a VERY large buidling.

3. Re: city block

Originally Posted by Barb_D
Yes when you're in the part of a city that is set up (more or less) in a grid.

There are some short blocks and some long blocks. The larger the city and the more regular the street grid, the more uniform the size of the blocks.

Note that a "city block" means the entire area bounded by the four streets on each side. If a building takes up an entire city block, it's generally a VERY large buidling.

Thank you, Barb_D! If there are streets between traffic lights, would I have to count them as blocks as well? For example, if there are 2 residential streets between Traffic light A and Traffic light B, is that 3 blocks to Traffic light B or still only 1 block? What about residential areas where there are no traffic lights. Is one street to another street considered a block?

4. Re: city block

Here is a map of the area not far from where I grew up. Note the north-south streets Behrendt, LeFevre, and Cunningham. They are intersected by east-west streets Hayden and Elza. There are no traffic lights at any of those corners, but each section in between one of the cross streets is considered a "block" (that is, the section of Cunningham between Eight Mile and Hayden is one block, and the section between Hayden and Elza is another block, etc.) Not every city block is the same size/length, but the term is still a good general indicator of distance. Everyone tends to get the same picture in their mind's eye of how far away "three blocks down the street" is.

5. Re: city block

If they are set up in a regular grid, then those are all "blocks." If you're in a residential area with winding streets, then don't use "blocks."

6. Re: city block

Thank you, Ouisch and Barb_D. This makes a lot more sense to me now :)

7. Re: city block

Originally Posted by Barb_D
If they are set up in a regular grid, then those are all "blocks." If you're in a residential area with winding streets, then don't use "blocks."

We don't hear this term 'block' in India as the streets are not in a regular grid (except in a city such as Chandigarh, which was designed by Western architects). I wonder if it is used in the UK, or only in the US.

8. Re: city block

We don't generally use 'block' in that sense in BrE. I am grateful to Barb and Ouisch for what I have learnt in this thread.

9. Re: city block

Having visited the USA several times, I'm used to getting directions in blocks. I've actually started to use it myself. The building where I work is on a fairly major, very straight street. If someone comes in and asks for directions to another building on the same street, I will usually say something like "Of course. It's about three or four blocks that way (pointing) on the left". However, if the directions require that they turn off that main road, I don't use blocks. I'll just say "Go along this road in this direction (pointing) then take the second left and then the first right".

10. Re: city block

I get the feeling that blocks are used to describe walking directions more than driving. If I were giving driving directions, I would describe how many lights (traffic signals) or stop signs in each segment, not describe blocks.

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