Who’s Up for Sneckdowns?

Image: Clarence Eckerson/BBC
Image: Clarence Eckerson/BBC

With Blizzard Mania ’16 reaching a fever pitch up and down the Eastern Seaboard, it looks like we’re in for the first serious sneckdowns of the season.

For the uninitiated, sneckdowns are neckdowns created by driving patterns in melting snow or slush. Sneckdowns highlight excess asphalt that could be repurposed for streetscape improvements to slow motor vehicle traffic and make walking safer.

A little backstory: The sneckdown concept goes back decadesIn 2001, Transportation Alternatives wrote: “[T]he next time someone tells you that you can’t have a neckdown on that corner or this corner because there’s not enough room, show them what happens every year when it snows.” Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr. documented “naturally occurring neckdowns” in 2006, Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek coined the hashtag in 2013, and the international sneckdown craze was born.

Use the #sneckdown hashtag to share your photos on social media (find tips from Clarence on page 3 of this PDF). If you’d like to see your pics on Streetsblog — wherever you are — please include a location in your tweet or Instagram. We’ll be on the lookout first thing Monday.

  • steely

    I kick it sneckdown

    I trek all over town

    in search of sneckdown

    So how we gonna’ kick it?

    Gonna’ kick it sneckdown

    Clarence is gonna’ break it on down, gonna’ kick it sneckdown

    It’s not a put down

    to put throughput down

    And Clarence makes some change, I put my sneckdown

    Like a bus campaign by the Rider’s Alliance

    Everybody knows he’s known for dropping science

    I’m electric like Dani Simons

    I guess you’d expect to catch the crew rhymin’

    Never let you down with the stereo sound

    So Naparstek, get on the mic and turn it out

    We’re talking sneckdown, I put my sneckdown

    And if you want to battle DOT, you’re putting loot down

    I said sneckdown, it’s time to end wrecks in this town

    I’m a step up to the mic in my goose down

    Come up representing from the upper west

    CB7 putting me to the test

    Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been blessed

    Because Dan is on his way out and that’s cause we never rest

  • alexblac

    I want to be you.

  • AMH

    One quarrel with the image–the shoveled areas say zilch about pedestrian patterns. They show how ambitious the shoveling crews are.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Wait, don’t you have a staff of 25 and a major advocacy organization to run?!

  • Actually this was the block I lived on. This photo was taken (I believe) 4 days after the snowfall. There was some shoveling but it was done where all the snow was smashed down by feet. Then it got warm and melted the rest away. It may look “shoveled” but in fact most of that was the actual foot pattern.

  • I’ve always thought that sneckdowns aren’t really about what peds will do – with all the snow, peds typically take the path of least resistance, which means the’y’ll walk through the tiny little bit that’s been worn away by other peds.

    Snow can show desire lines in some places, but I think that’s different from the point of sneckdowns! It’s more about showing that cars simply do not need all the space we give them. If you did build that space out in concrete, *then* pedestrians would be able to use all of it.

    Can’t wait to see all the pictures!

  • It’s true. It tells us the behavior of cars and what conditions they can operate. I was just pointing out that the comment above was incorrect regarding whether it was largely shoveled or not for peds. Peds certainly had trampled down where they wanted to walk for about 36 hours before someone went out and kindly got rid of some of the snow.

  • WHO do we get to write the music and record this shit?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    park avenue

  • Joe R.

    For some reason this looks like a scene out of the movie “The Day After Tomorrow”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_After_Tomorrow

  • JamesR

    Folks, sneckdowns are a cute concept, but the reason that they work is because they aren’t hard infrastructure. They’re snow. If the ROW was truly reduced through, say, bollards, curbs, or other hardscape, it would require a level of precision driving that many motorists could not handle. Especially trucks.

  • Andrew

    So perhaps they should be forced to figure out how to handle it. (Pedestrians aren’t hard infrastructure either, and we don’t much appreciate being driven through.)

  • JamesR

    Get back to me when you figure out how to make NYC drivers into something better than what they are now (i.e. terrible).

  • Andrew

    They’ll figure it out over time as they bang their way against hard infrastructure that damages their vehicles.

  • Simon Phearson

    You could make the same argument for virtually any kind of infrastructure that doesn’t serve drivers above all – narrower traffic lanes, protected bike lanes, pedestrian islands, even walk signals. The point is you design a system that requires drivers to be more careful and that is less likely to result in serious injury or damage when drivers do inevitably screw up. It is better that a driver slow to turn around a neckdown and occasionally hit the curb than the driver speed around the corner and hit a pedestrian he had less opportunity to see or stop for.

    And as for trucks – I don’t know that anyone is suggesting that each and every corner needs this treatment. If there are corners that see a lot of turning truck traffic, maybe the interests balance out a different way. But there are a lot of streets that shouldn’t be seeing heavy truck traffic. We shouldn’t design them for that kind of traffic, and perhaps designing them so that they don’t accommodate that kind of traffic is a better way of dissuading truck drivers from using them than simply designating “truck routes.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    The travel ban is lifted, and the subways and buses are running.

    What is the first day I should try to bike in to work?

  • This is invalid. If sneckdowns are in place for 3, 4, 5 days, or even weeks in my neighborhood and they go untouched, then they are essentially hard infrastructure for that period. And within a few days you can bet every kind of vehicle has successfully navigated around them. Even on a narrow 34th Ave in Queens (i’ll take some photos in a few days) you’ll cars, vans, trucks successfully turning off side streets – if they go slowly not a problem. I’ve seen a firetruck make what even I thought was gonna be an impossible turn on a 10 foot sneckdown. Now like I have said a million times – that doesn’t mean you can have a 10 foot curb extension, but you could certainly have one 4, 5, 6 feet and dramatically boost safety.

  • Bollards, curbs, and other hardscape are standard features in many European cities, yet drivers who need to get through get through. The whole point of Vision Zero is that we shouldn’t trade safety for convenience. If a driver has to thread the needle a tad more carefully as he or she turns a corner, that’s great. We want drivers to be more aware of potentially damaging their cars as they move through crowded areas, since they typically don’t seem that aware of potentially damaging people.

    And as we say every year, sneckdowns are a thought experiment. They’re not meant to be a 1:1 representation of how one might re-allocate space.

  • Follow this logic to its conclusion: because NYC drivers are terrible, we should open up as much street space to them as is possible?

  • Brad Aaron

    It’s called Vision Zero.

  • AMH

    I should have explained more–pedestrian pathways through snow are generally the paths of least resistance around piles of plowed snow. They are not indicative of good footpath routes or allocation of space, which is what the image seemed to suggest.

  • c2check

    It’s probably also time we join the rest of the developed world and stop driving tractor trailers through our neighborhoods on a regular basis.
    Other places get along well with smaller delivery vehicles that are safer, more maneuverable, and friendlier on the streets.

  • c2check

    Put up some bollards to force drivers to maneuver their cars more slowly and safely.

    Drivers will learn after they get enough dents or scrape their paint enough times.

  • davistrain

    The behavior of cars? It would be more accurate to say the “behavior of drivers” (although some drivers see their cars as extensions of themselves–If they get a dent in the car body, they act as if someone had smacked them in the face)


Inwood sneckdown, December 2016. Photo: Brad Aaron

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