Snow: A Case Study in Traffic Calming

Last month, I argued that Provo gets narrower streets after snow storms and that those narrow streets work just fine. The point was that we should be building new narrow streets and slimming the ones we already have because, clearly, they work.

But a video I recently discovered from Streetfilms explores how snow storms have other traffic-calming effects as well:

The video focuses on “neckdowns,” or elements added to street corners to slow cars as they turn. The idea is to increase safety for pedestrians and, as the video points out, the cars aren’t really using the space anyway.

The video shows a whole series of accidental neckdowns resulting from snow and tracks cars as they make turns. As the narrator points out, they’re “not stopping anybody from getting where they need to go.”

The takeaway here is that after snow storms we often have working examples of how our own streets should be structured; we don’t need to rely on distant case studies or theoretical models. Instead, we just need to walk outside a few days after a snow storm, look at how much street is being used, and only plan to build that.



Filed under driving

3 responses to “Snow: A Case Study in Traffic Calming

  1. Julie

    Yes, but… what would happen when it then snowed? At some point, there has to be some extra space allowed in road layouts precisely because of events like snowstorms.

    • Good point. It would definitely require some creativity. But a few thoughts: first, something like a neckdown takes up a very small percentage of overall street space, so there’d still be plenty of room. Right now, snow gets pushed into pedestrian areas, or at least corners that should be reserved for pedestrians; if there were more neckdowns it’d likely just get pushed into car space, like parking stalls. People will disagree about the value of that approach, but I almost always favor encroaching on car space rather than on pedestrian space.

      Second, in my previous posts on snow and streets I argued that much of the snow clogging our streets never gets plowed in the first place. The idea is that we have too much overall street space to afford upkeep. Reducing the size of streets generally would theoretically save a massive amount of money that could be reinvested elsewhere, including in even better plowing.

      (It’s worth noting that Salt Lake City actually trucks snow out of downtown after storms, which offers another potential solution/way to use save tax dollars).

      And finally, I’d argue that cities have existed for millennia in cold places without building override streets to accommodate snow build up. As usual, I’m advocating for a traditional city design with narrower, pedestrian-first streets.

  2. Jesse

    Places a lot more dense with a lot more snow than Provo seem to do well.

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