Image: Sneckdown Halifax @BenWedge
‘Sneckdown’ is a mash-up of the words ‘snowy’ and ‘neckdown’.
‘Neckdown’ seems to be an urban planning term used in Canada/USA for narrowing the roadway and widening the pavement at junctions, intended to slow vehicle traffic and increase pedestrian safety.
Sneckdowns are created by natural phenomena: snowfall and the resulting behaviour of humans using roads. The process goes something like this:
- After a snowfall, the normally visible road markings and boundaries between pavements and roads disappear under a blanket of snow, leaving a ‘blank canvas’.
- People then make paths in the snow on pavements and roads as they walk/drive/cycle around.
- These paths reveal how and where pedestrians and vehicle users use pavements and roads.
- These paths also reveal ‘Desire Paths’ – where people want to walk rather than where urban planners have decided people should walk.
- All areas of the roads that are unused by vehicles – as indicated by remaining snowfall – are ‘Sneckdowns’: pavement extensions made of snow.
Sneckdowns tend to reveal:
- How much more road space is given to cars than is really needed for them to travel around.
- Where it is possible to extend pavements or add pedestrian islands and separated bike lanes to make it safer for people to navigate streets by walking or cycling.
This simple short gif created by pilsēta cilvēkiem in Latvia (their name means ‘City People’) illustrates the Sneckdown process in action:
This YouTube video by the person credited with starting the Sneckdown craze shows Sneckdown in effect on a New York junction:
“The sneckdown photos are great, but they also rely on the fact that far fewer people are driving and so as well as showing the space which could be released, they indirectly show us that we need traffic reduction to release the space…”
The Ranty Highwayman
If you’re interested in Sneckdowns, here are some more links to get you started:
As (UK-based) The Ranty Highwayman says in his blog: “The sneckdown photos are great, but they also rely on the fact that far fewer people are driving and so as well as showing the space which could be released, they indirectly show us that we need traffic reduction to release the space…”.
There’s not much in the way of Sneckdown images from the UK given the lack of snow here, but autumn also provides opportunities in the form of ‘Sleafdown’ for less snowy climes (I know, should be ‘Leckdown’, surely?). Check out #sleafdown on Twitter for a few images. Better still, send us any you spot around Headington this autumn...