On Tuesday, Streetsblog did a post of photos of the latest round of #sneckdown madness sweeping the nation. I posted one (above) of a sneckdown at end of my street in Jackson Heights, Queens, the corner of 34th Avenue & 85th Street. It was pretty typical of what intersections looked like that morning following the pseudo-Blizzard in my nabe.
It's now over 52 hours since the snow stopped falling so I went back and snapped some updates. Comparing the Tuesday and today photos there's really not much difference (except it's dirtier and wetter). We still have the SE corner (the turning corner) with essentially a ten foot snow extension from the curb. The closest tire track thru the snow is approximately 8 feet from the curb.
Some critics of the sneckdown phenomenon cite that it fails to take in to account larger vehicle turns. This is why it is important to use a little moxie in your documentation. If the sneckdown hangs around days after the initial snowfall, you'll have more anecdotal evidence the street is overbuilt. NYC has been largely back to normal for the better part of two days. There are still large piles of ice & snow calming traffic. The pace of cars is a bit slower. Good news for everyone except those who might want to drive more dangerously.
I've observed all kinds of vehicles easily make the turn on my block (which by the way could be considered more challenging since there's a median on 34th Avenue that makes the turn sharper - see photo.) I've seen SUVs, vans, long furniture delivery trucks, postal trucks and even a mini bus make the turn. Not a problem. (I admit I have not seen a firetruck to those who will naysay.)
Okay, yes, the sneckdown is not an absolute 1:1 ratio. But it's a conversation starter. It shows evidence where streets are seriously overbuilt and where modifications could help pedestrians. Of course I wouldn't advocate for 10 foot curb extensions on this block. Or even 8. But 5 or 6 feet is certainly a reality.
Finally, check out below the progression of what traffic calming does and the sneckdown simulates in this triptych. This parent starts crossing 34th Avenue with her child as the car waits patiently on 85th since they cannot make that turn so sharply. Then the car makes its turn. We can do this in so many places if we have the will and funds.
So get out there and document. And if you want more info on how to do it and inspire others, go to ioby right now where Streetfilms & Sneckdowns are featured in their 5 x 5 Getting Good Done in the Cold & Snow. Download the PDF for more #sneckdown tips. And keep posting on Twitter!
I am gonna keep this simple: are you having difficulty convincing your city/town about the merits of protected bike lanes? Streetfilms can help.
The above Streetfilm was put together back when then-New York City Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan was under a full-on bikelash assault from the media. It was done to show that protected bike lanes on wide avenues can have a wide range of benefits. From pedestrians to transit riders.
That was nearly four years ago. All those lanes survived and now some of the earliest lanes installed in NYC are becoming greener and making the streets more wonderful. Just see for yourself.
One excerpt I posted from that original video that I have gotten positive feedback was the next video. I interviewed Gary Toth from Project for Public Spaces and we chatted about why you need to have a buffer. So many people have emailed or told me this little clip was very useful.
Finally, hopefully cities in the U.S. will have the courage to do protected bike lanes with true style and safety like Copenhagen and Amsterdam do. One way of encouraging that is to show one place in the U.S. that has done an amazing job. Like they've done along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Yes, this loop was expensive, but you could do them with a little less panache for far cheaper and still make them look good. I hope these Streetfilms help.
By now, fans of Streetfilms probably know about the explosion of the hashtag #sneckdown on Twitter earlier this year. Now we are slowly watching another phenomenon roll out and it is easy enough to contribute.
In what has to make the Green Lane Project team happy, when Streetfilms fans have been seeing freshly painted (or re-painted) protected bike lanes in that bright green color that looks closer to a famous muppet, they're using the tag #freshkermit. Here's a few recent examples. Keep an eye out in your city and tweet away!
— Local Auckland (@LocalAuckland) September 5, 2014
— Streetfilms (@Streetfilms) September 5, 2014
— Pippa Coom (@pippacoom) November 19, 2014
#bikeNYC is always alive during October. It's a beautiful time to be out riding. It seems of late I've gone on a Streetfilms Shorties tear, which are essentially videos that only take a few hours of shooting & editing for me to publish. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about them and don't anticipate many thousands of plays, but smaller groups of watchers (especially in NYC) will appreciate.
First off, on Saturday got to go on a fun Queens "Zombie Ride" ride with Kidical Mass NYC! About 30 people turned out for their second official ride and they hope to continue the expanding with more rides. Check it out.
The first thing I like to emphasize to folks when they come to see me at conferences to give my Streetfilms University presentation is that if you have a little bit of patience, really anyone can make and edit a decent short film. Even with little or no experience. Sure, perhaps not to a "Streetfilms standard" right off the bat, but believe me: if you put the time in, you can edit and make a successful and perfectly watchable advocacy tool.
One method I like to use is playing videos showing a progression of clips, each step showing the transformation of a talking head interview to its placement within a Streetfilm. First, I play the raw soundbite I was working with. Next, I edit down my taking head and remove extraneous information to make a sleeker, faster answer. Then, I show what it looks like with b-roll (footage), sound and/or graphics edited in to showcase the final Streetfilms product.
This above clip is of Professor Norman Garrick from the University of Connecticut. He's easily become one of my favorite people to interview and this featured edit progression is from my recent Streetfilm "Zurich: Where People are Welcome and Cars Are Not." You'll see how I took a one minute soundbite and edited it down to 27 seconds with five edits. Then what it looks like once music and footage of transit & city life is ladled in.
There are many ways and styles to edit a film. But as a beginner don't get bogged down much on what music you are gonna use or how you are gonna begin the video or fancy animated graphics or kinds of transitions/fonts/titles you want. Just concentrate on your interviews. Edit them down to tell the story you want to. All of the other elements will actually be easier to decide once you have soundbites lined up. Trust me. There's not much sense putting effort into editing a fancy 20 second opening montage to your video and then saying to yourself, "Okay, now what?"
Here's another edit progression I've included, this time featuring three of transportation greatest heroes from the Streetfilm "The Rise of Open Streets". watch how three perfectly wonderful sound bites at a length of 1:12 sound even better at 33 seconds, and then the momentum it picks up by adding the appropriate corresponding footage.
I'm not saying this approach is the best for everybody, but it 's simple and always works. And you can duplicate it. Just be aware that it may take listening to a soundbite dozens of times to find out what to remove. Or better yet: letting the video sit and sleeping on it and coming back with a fresh set of eyes and ears. Just like a college term paper!
This final "riding interview" sequence I am attaching not to recommend you try for yourself (after all I've been doing this for 15 years) but it does illustrate how you can make magic happen. This is a clip of fellow media maker Chris Bruntlett I shot while riding in Montreal's Tour de l'Île. I accidentally had a GoPro recording during our chat and later when I realized I had the two angles, I wanted show what I sometimes endure and navigate while in the midst of my job. Nevertheless, the final product shows how adding in the right video b-roll helps tell the tale. Enjoy!