Can The Snow “Teach” Us About Public Space?

Can The Snow “Teach” Us About Public Space?

During this winter season, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have received more snow than we have in the past 3 years. As we are all keenly aware, the snow causes many issues for transportation and safety.

But there may be something more positive to come out of all this snow after all. The snow piles that build up on the edges and curbs of streets and sidewalks are reflecting something useful for city planners and developers: unused public space. “Sneckdowns,” as these piles are referred to as, is a term combining snow and neckdowns (curb expansion). Essentially, these sneckdowns show “street spaces cars don’t use.”  These unused spaces could be used for traffic calming or to create “road diets” by using strategies such as traffic islands, pedestrian plazas, and curb bump-outs.

However, as Dan Malouff says, “[i|t’s true that actual engineers shouldn’t design streets solely around piled snow, but certainly sneckdowns are a handy illustration of how we give too much pavement to cars.” Potentially, the existence of these sneckdowns across communities and the pictures concerned citizens have taken of these sneckdowns could be used to push for incorporating more walkability strategies into road and sidewalk planning and design.

Check out BeyondDC, Slate, and Greater Greater Washington for pictures of these sneckdowns across the Mid-Atlantic & Northeast.

Rebecca Hertz


Rebecca Hertz is the Assistant Executive Director of Friends of White Flint. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University, Worcester Massachusetts in 2012. She completed her Master’s Degree from Clark University, as well, in Community Development and Planning in 2013. She is interested in how built environments impact the health and growth of communities. Prior to this role, she worked as a youth worker and mentor for several non-profit organizations in Maryland and Massachusetts. She grew up in Rockville, MD and has recently moved back to the region.

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