If there's one upside to the looming blizzard, it's the opportunities that street snow reveals for traffic calming.
Check it out: When snow accumulates on the street, and cars drive over it for a little while, they help reveal the spaces on the street that they don't use. There's a whole lot of asphalt out there that's allocated to cars instead of pedestrians that cars don't really need.
Last year I went on a little expedition on E. Passyunk Ave for a blog post for This Old City, taking pictures of the spaces that Clarence Eckerson at Streetfilms has dubbed "sneckdowns," or snowy neckdowns.
E. Passyunk Ave is a great place to observe this phenomenon because of how the diagonal Avenue crosses the street grid, creating triangles of excess snowy space. Here are a few examples:
Why should you care about this?
University City District used these snow accumulations to make the case for their pedestrian plaza at 48th and Baltimore, and other groups have been inspired by the images from E. Passyunk and Lancaster Ave to ask city officials for pedestrian plazas in other places. In my capacity on the Bella Vista Neighbors Association, I recently filed a letter of interest for a PHS Neighborhood Placemaker grant to create a plaza on the sneckdown pictured above at 6th and Christian. They're a great persuasive tool because they're so visual.
So here's where you come in. After the blizzard hits tomorrow, help us snap a few pictures of the sneckdowns in your area. Tweet at us @PlanPhilly and use the #PHLsneckdowns hashtag.
I'm hoping to get over to Gray's Ferry Ave and Ridge Ave tomorrow, but there are lots of other overly-wide intersections I want to see (Fishtown, the Parkway, Moyamensing) that I won't be able to get to, so send us images from your neighborhood and we'll put up a post with our favorite submissions later this week.
And most importantly, be safe out there!