Civic News

Before the snow melts: Add Philly ‘sneckdowns’ to this collaborative map

Ambler native Benjamin She is compiling the spots where the snow reveals underutilized street space.

This Fishtown "sneckdown" reveals where space unsued by cars might be protected for pedestrian use. (Courtesy photo)

The six inches of snow that Philly got on Wednesday are already starting to melt but, in the meantime, the piles of slush might reveal something about our city’s street design.

As you trek carefully through the icy sidewalks, keep an eye out for snow formations known as “sneckdowns,” a portmanteau of “snow” and “neckdowns” or curb extensions.

Basically, it’s the spot where snow accumulates, revealing unused street space that, some argue, could be replaced with public space that helps reduce traffic speed.

Ambler, Pa., native Benjamin She, kept hearing about sneckdowns from local urbanist Jon Geeting. A volunteer with Geeting’s urbanist PAC, 5th Square, She started a collaborative Google map for folks to aggregate sneckdowns in Philadelphia.

There are currently over 40 entries.

“The list of locations is only just getting started,” She said. “I hope it will inspire people and organizations all over the city to submit sneckdown photos so we can show city officials the latent potential of expanding pedestrian space that is right now just unused asphalt.”

She, a 21-year-old student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said 5th Square is willing to help those who want to pursue a pedestrian plaza project based on sneckdown revelations.

“This could be a really useful advocacy tool for bottling some of the online interest we always see crop up around sneckdowns whenever it snows now,” said 5th Square cofounder Geeting in an email. “Twitter and Facebook posts are fleeting, so making these available somewhere all year long for people to (re)discover later might make it more likely that local activists or neighborhood groups will initiate these projects when the weather gets nicer.”



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