Snowy Neckdowns Redux: Winter Traffic Calming
As you may recall, many years ago I shot a Streetfilm taking about what winter weather can teach us. In many ways the snow acts like tracing paper on our streets and records road user movements: at each intersection where the snow ends up piled can teach us a lot about where people drive and chose to walk. It's a great experiment that costs no money and anyone can play traffic engineer. If you ever want safer streets around your block get out and take some photos next time it snows, it can bolster your arguments before a nay-saying community board (or politician) whether you are in New York City or Iowa.
With it having been over a week since we had our last big snowfall, I had been noticing some of the most dramatic examples of neckdowns & curb extensions made out of the fluffy white stuff - now hard as concrete - which brought a real sense of calm to crossing some streets in Jackson Heights, Queens. And predicted, drivers don't seem to be having any problems with them, just taking the turns a bit more slowly and carefully as they should 365 days of the year. I've seen delivery vehicles, garbage trucks, EMS, and buses all have little problem navigating them (although admittedly did not observe any firetrucks.)
Of course, you can also check out how chicanes naturally occur.
Clarence Eckerson Jr.: [00:00] So with the great storm of 2011 now history here in New York City, I’m out here in Jackson Heights where I thought I would revisit a video from many years ago where I went out in the snow and showed you just how much traffic calming concepts can be explained by leftover snow. So at just about every intersection here in Jackson Heights you can see that these snowy piles that are still well off the curb have become basically permanent, and they how just where traffic neckdowns would be if they were at every intersection.
Clarence Eckerson Jr.: [00:36] Solid, solid ice. Now here’s another one I just came across. This one shows just how dramatic the distance is. Look at how far this snow bank is from the concrete. This is what a typical traffic calming device would look like. And nobody’s having problems navigating that. This gentleman just made a nice slow turn. The only time this space is used by cars is to make turns faster, quicker and more dangerous.
Clarence Eckerson Jr.: [01:05] Okay, the size of these snowy neckdowns are so incredible, especially after seven or eight days, that I had to go home and get a tape measure. And here we go. And that is a good eight feet or so. We’re not even measuring all this other ice and snow that’s been packed down, just the solid part. Eight/eight and a half feet to the curb. You know, we have a lot of schools in this neighbourhood and it’s very important with all the children that are trying to cross the street that we slow down cars when they turn, and one way to do that is with a neckdown. And how that happens is you basically are making the car go a little slower round the corner. This has been here for over a week, it extends many feet into the intersection. There’s a car right here behind me about to tun. Let’s see if he makes this turn nice and slow, let’s see, we’ll follow him. And he appears to have had no problem.
Clarence Eckerson Jr.: [02:00] This one here is an absolutely incredible nine feet from the curb. Nine feet this stretches out. Nine feet, and it’s not stopping anybody from getting where they need to go.
Clarence Eckerson Jr.: [02:18] I even came out here a few weeks ago to take some pictures of school crossing guards who take a traffic cone, they put it out in the street so that cars slow down as they’re making a turn onto the street with the school, and you could see they’re exactly about the same distance of where these snowy neckdowns are.
Clarence Eckerson Jr.:
[02:34] So the next time it snows and ices up in your neighbourhood,
you’ll see the same thing. We can take back some of that space
to make it safer for children and families and seniors crossing.
We could shorten the distance, provide spaces for them to wait.
And also slow down cars. The truth is they don’t need that space.
The only thing that that space allows them to do is to speed up in making
a turn. And these icy, snowy neckdowns are dramatic in size and
dramatically shaped and they’re still doing absolutely nothing to
stop people from getting around by their cars.