What the Heck Is a Sneckdown?

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Video screen capture. Streetfilms

It's #sneckdown time in the northeast US. Get out there with your camera and show how much space could be taken back for pedestrians and add them to the TreeHugger photo pool and we will do a roundup. Here is an explanation and a history, first published in 2014:

Clarence Eckerson of StreetFilms calls snow "nature's tracing paper"; you can see patterns of where people walk, bike and drive. In some cases, it acts as a "neckdown", a curb extension that acts as a traffic calming device, forcing drivers to slow down. In City Rules, Emily Talen noted how these things work, how something as simple as the radius of the curb changes how pedestrians and drivers react: "As curve radii go from five feet to fifty, you get a completely different pattern and scale."

The snow is doing what the traffic engineers won't do: narrowing the streets, slowing people down. It's showing the places drivers and people don't go. It's creating "snowy neckdowns" or sneckdowns. Since everyone from the BBC to Fast Company is talking about them, Clarence Eckerson Jr. explains the origin of the term in Streetfilms:

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.

Snowy Neckdowns Redux: Winter Traffic Calming (#sneckdown) from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

sneckdown tweets

streetfilms/Screen capture

Streetsblog founder and former Editor in Chief Aaron Naparstek suggested #sneckdown as a hashtag and the rest is history, as people started documenting sneckdowns from all over the snow-covered world. Eckerson is a modest man:

In closing, I'd like to point out - again - that I did not invent this useful observation about snow, though I am likely the first to make films about it. I felt it prudent to have the history of the term "sneckdown" documented here for the curious. I am also not a traffic engineer and have no formal training in urban planning. Certainly taking a photo of a sneckdown does not equate to an absolute mathematical seizure of asphalt to implement traffic calming.

But these photos are another example of how people have become so engaged and interested in urban design lately. More in The Complete Origin of the #Sneckdown