Snow storms are an urbanist’s best friend. As snow builds up along the side of a road and small mountains of sooty snow discolored by car exhaust linger, driving patterns and the actual space needed to accommodate automobiles becomes readily apparent. These snowy remnants are called #sneckdowns, a riff on “snow” paired with the urban planning term “neckdown” which means bumping a sidewalk curb out into the street at intersections to calm traffic and shorten the distance required for a person to cross the street. Louisville has plenty of neckdown examples, such as the streetscape along West Main Street, and this week, #sneckdowns are visible all across the region.
This natural sort of traffic calming provides (at least temporarily) the chance to see how much excess space is devoted to automobiles. According to Transportation Alternatives, a safe streets advocate in New York City that coined the term in 2001:
The wider a street, the safer drivers feel exceeding the speed limit. Streets narrowed by snow have the opposite effect, encouraging drivers to behave. Where normally drivers are jockeying for position, snow banks both sides of the street keep drivers in line and in their lane, demonstrating how narrow the street could be.
We want to see where #sneckdowns in Louisville reveal leftover street space that could be used to create a more pedestrian-friendly city. Take a snapshot of streets in your neighborhood and send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use this handy form over here. You can also tag @brokensidewalk on Twitter. We’ll post a gallery of reader submissions with the photos you share and even (crudely) render a couple of the best examples to show what an all-weather, pedestrian-friendly streetscape could look like!
Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms has been tracking the phenomena in New York City since 2006, finding examples where the paved street can be replaced with wider sidewalks, bumpouts, and new landscaping. Take a look at a couple of his films below: