With a Big Denver Snowfall Comes Big Inspiration to Calm Traffic

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There’s a ton of excess pavement at Lawrence and Broadway that could be repurposed to calm traffic. Photo: David Sachs

Tuesday was Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, so spring will come early this year. So it’s good that Denver got a big snowstorm while the winter lasts, because snow helps illustrate the potential to redesign streets.

As drivers trace paths through the snow, a lot of asphalt remains untouched, revealing excess pavement all over the place, especially at intersections. The result is temporary, snow-made traffic-calming — also known as “sneckdowns.”

If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s a portmanteau of “snowy neckdown.” (A neckdown is a traffic-calming technique that widens sidewalks at street corners so drivers take turns more carefully and pedestrians have shorter distances to cross.) Sneckdowns are like visual evidence that street space is waiting to be repurposed for pedestrians.

Here are just a few examples from Denver after the latest storm.

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Broadway and Park Avenue West. Photo: David Sachs
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At 31st and Curtis — next to a park — there’s about 20 feet of wasted pavement for cars. Photo: Wendy Reischl via Twitter
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31st and California, across from the 30th and Downing RTD station. Wendy Reischl via Twitter

Other cities have used paint and plastic bollards to create space for people to stand while waiting to cross the street, or even gather and talk. Permanent fixes don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. They just need the go-ahead from city planners, engineers, and elected officials.

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A new neckdown in Austin takes advantage of unused street space. Photo: Austin Mobility

Thanks to readers who shared their photos. Got a picture or video of a Denver sneckdown? Share it on Twitter or Facebook and we may share it on the blog. You can email me as well.

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