Documenting the NYC snowpocalypse's neckdowns: latent traffic calming revealed by climate and crowds


Very cool. I agree.

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When did every snowstorm to hit the northeast become “snowpocalypse”?

Not to sound like the ornery old man, starting off his sentences with “in MY day. . . .”, but we handled this shit no problem when I was a kid. Or is it just the media today needs to hype very f%&king thing?

I just answered my own question, didn’t I?


Part of the problem with a city like New York is that it was a product of the two dominant forms of transportation of the respective ages in which is was expanding the most. First, the horse drawn carraige, and then later the automobile.

Neither is necessarilly the most sensible way to move about a city, but rather they were adopted out of convenience and out of a lack of better options at the time. If technology had allowed for subways and metros from the very earlier days of the world’s largest cities, they’d be laid out and built radically differently.

We can see proof of all this in cities like Venice, where the primary form of transportation after walking is small watercraft, including their famous gondolas, and where there have never been automobiles and little to no horse drawn carraiges. Why did they settle on gondolas and bridges? Because it was convenient - the city was built on a river estuary in the Medieval period, and subsisted chiefly on fishing and trading via watercraft. And this choice of transit technology ended up shaping the city in almost every aspect.

New York city could, with proper planning and revamping of infrastructure, function perfectly well with absolutely zero automobiles. It’d be difficult to make the transition, but it is eminently possible and to many perhaps incredibly desireable. The reduction in noise, in pollution, in accidents and inherent dangers, in crowding, et cetera, would all be substantial boons to many urbanites. The trick is getting people onboard with taking the necessary steps to enact this sort of change.

The obvious weakness that in this argument is that there is zero chance a big truck or larger delivery truck could turn left or right. You can’t do it everywhere. Nice thought, but no.

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Load of road apples. It’s just simply that there are a lot fewer vehicles moving because most drivers are too afraid. Period.

Obviously, you need to define a “big truck”. An Australian road train is not going to make it through those intersections, sure. If you’re expecting UPS to bring you mobile homes in your mail, you probably want to be in an industrial section of the city to begin with.

Fire departments typically want to bring big trucks through when there’s an emergency, but it’s not hard to accommodate the occasional emergency vehicle while leaving it to pedals and shoes the rest of the time.

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Here it was the Wichita Whiteout.

9 inches.

Sure, we made the new historical record for this day in particular, but not a huge deal as far as snowstorms go.

I guess it might be the end of the world if some snow somehow fell into the tops of my rubbers and got my ankles wet…

I’m not sure if NY has a lot of bus transportation given the subways, but in my city the public buses regularly end up forcing the oncoming traffic on a road they’re turning onto to back up in order to get enough room to make the turn. Adding this kind of modification would really snarl things up for them.

Of course, one solution would be to have certain roads designated as “larger vehicle” roads, but there’s still issues you have to work out even if you’re not delivering mobile homes on those roads. A lot of common larger vehicles need a good bit of extra space on turns to avoid tearing the heck out of the curb.

Zero automobiles is an unrealistic goal; we need buses, delivery vehicles, emergency vehicles, cars for the disabled and cabs. And the idea that this could apply to all the boroughs is very manhattan-centric; yes the subways and buses can handle most of the transportation needs of this city, but only when traveling in, to, or from manhattan. Traveling within or between other boroughs can very hard without a car - there is only one train designed for that purpose and though it has gotten better, it’s still not serving a lot of the population in the outer boroughs.

That said I agree with the point of the video; lots more could be done to make roads in nyc more friendly to pedestrians. Necksdowns would be great in some areas, as would blocking off streets to private traffic. Personally, I’d like to see plans to block private traffic from 57th down to the financial district. Bloomberg did a lot to move the city in that direction with his midtown broadway experiments and other initiatives. It’s just a shame he was never able to get congestion pricing in place because that would have been a great way to segue to banning private cars in mid/lower manhattan entirely.

Are all the roads “one way”? Many of the snow lanes shown appear to be single carriage way.

There’s no doubt that neckdowns make streets and neighborhoods more pedestrian-friendly. The one problem I can see with extending the sidewalk at every corner, is that by drastically narrowing the street, you do away with any space that could be allocated to a bike lane. (And forget about double-parking :slight_smile: )

Came here to say the same thing… Sigh.

Last year, while we were getting slammed with a storm dumping 25cms ofsnow every friggin’ week for a month and a half, someone in New Friggin York, posted a video, filmed while walking his dog - a PUG! - in NYC, in a snowfall that I wouldn’t even bother shovelling. The dog didn’t have to leap through the snow to get around, it wasn’t even getting snow on its belly…

The title of this video? Snowpocalypse.


The fellow is talking about one in '06 that totaled 26 inches. Are you saying this one doesn’t count?

Someone recently did this in Philadelphia as well.

The issue of emergency vehicles, trucks, buses etc is still valid and worth consideration. Though I wouldn’t be sad to see smaller trucks used in dense urban areas.

Great post.

I think most of us in NYC refer to any snow from feet down to about 0.25" as “snowpocalypse” with heavy sarcasm in order to mock the overblown coverage any snowstorm seems to get in the news. Snow is mostly a non-event within manhattan. There are lots of workers shoveling the sidewalks outside their buildings, plows running everywhere else, and the trains generally seem to do fine since they run underground. The worst you have to worry about during a snowpocalypse is that your feet might get cold and wet if you step in a slushy puddle.

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