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Snowy Neckdowns: Nature’s Traffic-Calming

4:10 PM EST on February 8, 2011

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 people's movements: at each intersection, the spots where the snow piles up can show us where people drive and walk. It's a great natural experiment that costs no money and lets anyone observe the new street geometry like a traffic engineer.

After New York's last big snowfall, I noticed some of the most dramatic examples of "neckdowns" and "curb extensions" made out of the fluffy white stuff -- which had hardened like concrete and brought a real sense of calm to crossing some streets in Jackson Heights, Queens. Drivers didn't seem to be having any problems with them. They just took 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).

The January snow is mostly gone from NYC streets, but if you ever want to make your block safer, get out and take some photos next time it snows. It can bolster your arguments when you make your case to your neighbors who might not be familiar with traffic calming concepts.

If you like this Streetfilm, you can also check out how chicanes naturally occur in New York.

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