What the heck is a sneckdown?

“The snow is almost like nature’s tracing paper,” says Clarence Eckerson Jr, the director of StreetFilms, which documents pedestrian- and cycle-friendly streets across the globe. He says that snow can be helpful in pointing out traffic patterns and changing street composition for the better.

“When you dump some snow on this giant grid of streets, now you can see, visually, how people can better use the streets,” he says.


I love this idea, and it’s especially relevant today, as we’ve had a sizeable snow and then a lot of cold, so nothing is melting. So, a “sneckdown” is a spot on the road that is still covered in snow after the plows have gone through and cars have been using the streets. It’s a ridiculous name, I know, but it’s a cool concept. If you go out in DC right now you’ll see a ton of them. They’re places that we’ve reserved for cars that cars don’t really need. They’re places that can be given back to pedestrians. We can take these spaces and make them sidewalks so it’s easier and safer to cross the street. Or we can make them into bike lanes, or parks, or anything else that people might need.

There is one caveat – especially when it’s cold, much of the non-car traffic just isn’t big enough and hot enough to melt the snow. We have a lot of bike lanes in the city that DDOT has ingored and cyclists can’t use, so they remain covered in snow. This isn’t because there’s no demand. I was out biking today and nearly every other cyclist I saw was doing what I had to do – taking the lane right next to the bike lane because the bike lane was covered in a treacherous mix of ice and slush. The presence of a sneckdown is not incontrovertible proof that the space isn’t needed for its intended purpose. It’s just a good indication that we’re not allocating space efficiently.