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Posts tagged "sneckdowns"

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Sneckdown Legitimized: Real World Applications from NYC Streets

I just got sick of it.

Every time I post a new video on the sneckdown phenomenon, I get all sorts of comments, emails and tweets on social media that it will never work. That you can't justify the idea. That I should "stop hating on cars". That no matter how well done, the video showing sneckdowns 10 feet from the curb that have been there for weeks (that drivers are successful navigating) that they couldn't work. That we still need all the asphalt for video and that pedestrians are second class citizens.

Well thank goodness I had a camera with me as I walking around the city a few days ago! Since by chance I stumbled upon a number of installations the NYC Dept. of Transportation has placed at intersections that are exactly what we would like to see after sneckdown documentation.

Enjoy. I think this really visualizes how effective traffic calming can be.

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#Sneckdowns Before and After: The Final Storm

After a decade of documenting nature's traffic calming, I decided to go out to the snowy streets of Jackson Heights for one final Streetfilm about the craze we helped start: sneckdowns! There's a new wrinkle in this installment -- before-and-after images to show how dramatically the snow changes the dynamic of the street.

If you're new to sneckdowns, it's a portmanteau of "snow" and "neckdown" (a technical term for a corner sidewalk expansion). A nice snowfall constrains the area where motorists take turns and provides clear visual evidence of where street space can be repurposed for walking instead of driving, creating much safer intersections in the process.

Sneckdown spotting is now a global phenomenon. To get a sense of how it all started, you may want to check out the first two Streetfilms in the series:

And the rest is history -- which I recapped in this post from 2014.

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Sneckdown: The Streetfilms Comic Strip!

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This year in NYC we had one giant #Blizzard2016 but little other snow to speak of.  The region as a whole has missed out on the train of traditional nor'easters that dump feet of snow on the D.C.-Baltimore-Philly-NYC-Boston megalopolis.  This year #sneckdown hunting was certainly down.

But we still wanted to get this fantastic comic strip on sneckdowns that my brother Gary put together out in front of the masses (and we'll probably be using it every season anyway!) It's a real unique way to have a little humor and educate the public on traffic calming and Vision Zero. In fact, we are hoping to raise a little bit of funding so we can do this on different transportation terms maybe monthly. So hopefully more to come. Enjoy and click the image below to embiggen.

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The #Sneckdown at the end of my Street

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The original photo from Streetsblog's Tuesday post.

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.

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A much dirtier sneckdown two and half days later, but functioning exactly the same.

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.

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This tire track is the closest groove thru the snow. It is still 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.

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A truck makes the turn from 85th Street onto 34th Avenue as easily it would on a clear day.

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.

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Light goes green. Car waits. Pedestrian crosses with child.

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Car makes slow turn around sneckdown/curb extension.

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Driver heads towards the light on 86th Street, which in all likelihood probably will be red anyway - so there is no rush to make the turn in the first place.

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!

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The Complete Origin of the #Sneckdown

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Nearly everywhere in the livable streets world you look, the sneckdown phenomenon is growing - with hundreds of photos tagged #sneckdown on Twitter in the last month.

Although the majority of  news articles & blogging sites have done a commendable job spreading the word, there's still a bit of confusion about the origin of the term and how it all started up.  So let's clear that up.

About me: I've been shooting video since the late 1990s, always looking for interesting ways to explain transportation concepts to people. At first it was a hobby. In 2003, it morphed in to a full time job. During that time I learned much from volunteering with Transportation Alternatives and at some point I most certainly read this article in their monthly magazine which spoke about snow calming on curb corners.

(And if we want to delve back further, I've been told by friends that they had professors in urban planning courses talking about observing the patterns of footprints and vehicles in the snow, some as early as the mid-1990s. Dan Burden adds this wonderful bit of history. And somewhere l feel like Jane Jacobs must have pondered this too.)

I lived in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I was frustrated with our Community Board always being resistant to the concept of traffic calming. They'd come up with ridiculous reasons against sensible implementations.  Then one day in 2006 we had one of the largest NYC snowstorms ever and I decided to go walk around and record this: Street Lessons from a Blizzard.

I got a lot of positive feedback on that short. But in the back of my mind, I wanted to do a more serious Streetfilm, one that focussed on slowing down traffic in crosswalks and making the case for putting in curb extensions, or as some wonky traffic experts referred to as "neckdowns".  In 2011, now living in Queens, I shot a sequel finding that some of these collections of snow - which I have referred to as "nature's tracing paper " - are nearly 10 feet out from the curb!  At one point I improvised the term "snowy neckdowns" when describing them, which was used in the title of this Streetfilm.

Both videos were moderate hits, attracting periodic attention from fans & advocates - some emailing me or tweeting the occasional photo(s). During this time Doug Gordon, from Brooklyn Spoke, was a regular contributor trying to rally folks to do the same.

Sneckdown Twitter

Then suddenly, interest in the videos climbed in December, most likely due to the copious winter snowstorms rolling across the U.S. One day before an impending storm was due to hit the northeast, Doug Gordon suggested we needed a hashtag for encouraging posting of a new batch of photos. As you can see from the above Twitter screenshot, Aaron Naparstek, Streetsblog founder and former Editor-in-Chief suggested #sneckdown, a portmanteau of "snowy neckdowns".

It was perfect. The hashtag got people psyched. And it got even more people curious. "What the heck is a #sneckdown?" was a frequent tweet I'd attempt to answer in 140 characters. Then the news stories started. The first big one was by the BBC.  That was followed by many more media reports and a few radio interviews.

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Credit: Nels Nelson

Read more...

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Snowy Neckdowns Redux: Winter Traffic Calming (Now: #sneckdown)

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.

UPDATE FROM THE FUTURE!

Now "snowy neckdowns" have been christened sneckdowns or through the magic of Twitter: #sneckdown

Just a few articles:

http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/01/22/sneckdowns-taking-the-world-by-storm/

http://thisoldcity.com/advocacy/photos-what-snow-tells-us-about-creating-better-public-spaces-e-passyunk-avenue

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25788068

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Street Lessons from a Blizzard (with sneckdown!)

Tonight I found something on my computer that we never posted. A real curio to publish 16 months later as we head into Summer 2007.

Back in Feb 2006, as the largest ever recorded NYC snowfall (26.9 inches) was winding down - although I'll bet we had some doozies during the Ice Age! - I popped outside with a camera to try to capture some traffic calming, transportation and livable streets lessons.

One caveat: with our new DOT commissioner and Mayor Bloomberg's ambitious 2030 initaitive, I would not make some of the same comments today. And I realize my "everybody can take the subway" soundbite is a stretch, but check it out - I think you'll find some merit as we present a StreetFilm from the cutting room floor!