Around the world, as cities popped up and buildings were constructed, it became necessary to plan out urban expansion. Part of this was done by creating a city block, also known as an urban block, residential block, or most simply, a block. Some parts of the world, such as Asia, Europe, and the Middle East tend to have less uniform blocks, while those cities relying on grid patterns have more equal blocks.
But regardless of where you go, you might find yourself wondering, “How many blocks have I walked? How long is a block, anyway?” Well, here’s the answer.
Blocks Around The World
In the United States, the standard distance of a single city block is around 311 feet on each side. That equals out to about 0.05 miles or 103.7 yards. The area covered by a block is approximately 100,000 square feet. But, the distance depends greatly on the country and city. For instance, in Manhattan, NY, the standard block is usually 264 ft x 900 ft (80 m x 274m). However, in Chicago, IL, a block is 330 ft x 660 ft (100 m x 200 m). As per the popular Chicago model, many US cities have 8 north-south blocks or 16 east-west blocks that amount to 1 mile. Interestingly, Melbourne, Australia also uses blocks that are 100 m x 200 m.
Some places in the US do not follow the same rectangular block pattern as Chicago and Manhattan. Some have square blocks, like Portland, OR, where a block is 260 ft by 260 ft (79 m x 79 m), or Sacramento, CA, which has blocks that run 410 ft by 410 ft (120 m x 120 m).
In Europe, blocks were not common, unless they were part of the Roman Empire or were a military sentiment. An example of this is Turin, Italy, where most of the roads are laid out in the grid-like pattern.
Variations in City Blocks
There are also various ways to define a block. More pedestrian-centric societies, such as Japan or Russia, will have far more superblocks than the US or Europe. The exception was Barcelona, which had something called “superilles” or superilla, which consisted of 9 standard city blocks. The superilles were constructed to reduce traffic along some streets.
More modern Japanese cities utilized Barcelona’s superblock structure but had the opposite motive. The superblocks were created as roads widened and more traffic needed to flow through the residential areas. Through 1990-2014 expansion projects around Tokyo, the standard size of a city block was 2.5 hectares, or 0.010 square miles or 6.17 acres. A block was only 1.6 hectares before 1990.
Wrapping Up – How long is a block?
In the English language, a block is an informal unit of measure that generally means around 311 feet (0.05 mi). That said, the perception of how long a block is will change depending on where you are from. Some places have shorter city blocks than others. So, the next time you tell someone that “it’s two blocks from here,” remember that they may not be prepared for it.