We don’t get the chance to do this often, Seattle, so don’t miss the chance to document some of the “sneckdowns” on streets near you.
What is a sneckdown, you ask? Well, mother nature has essentially painted the city’s streets with a valuable traffic calming and street design demonstration. It’s tactical urbanism falling like manna. When snow covers the lane markings and obscures the curbs, people driving create new and much narrower paths. The result is a very visual demonstration of how much space on our streets could be reclaimed for extended sidewalks, curb bulbs, crossing islands, bike lanes or even public plazas in the most dramatic cases.
Basically, when you are trudging to the sledding hill, imagine if the state or city built permanent sidewalks wherever the snow is untouched. A “neckdown” is more commonly referred to as a “curb bulb” in Seattle, an extension of the sidewalk to help make people waiting to cross the street more visible and to shorten the distance needed to walk from curb-to-curb. “Sneckdown” is a portmanteau of “snowy neckdown” coined in New York City.
Our streets have been designed to give an enormous amount of space to cars, especially at intersections. When sidewalks are cut back, people driving take turns much more quickly. This is extremely dangerous, and a major cause of injury and death. But when snow falls, one of the most common results is that people take slower and sharper turns, leaving snow near the curb untouched. A slower turn doesn’t stop people from getting where they’re going.
So why can’t it be this way even when it isn’t snowing? Nature has already taken care of the early design concept.
Have you noticed any sneckdowns near you? Let us know in the comments! If you have photos to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.