Sneckdown 1
Sneckdowns and what could be achieved with the space

As cycle advocates, we know that intersections are the most dangerous part of the roading network for all users and we are often saying that too much street space is given over to cars. We also try and point out the benefits of a street scape that encourages walking and cycling while also creating pleasant public spaces.

However, it is often hard for people to visualise what that means and how much space cars actually take up in the current designs.

A phenomenon that has become increasingly discussed in the United States is where the recent heavy snow falls have narrowed streets and created bulb outs. This has both illustrated the road space that cars need when driving at safe speeds and shown how safe speeds can be achieved by road design – a virtuous circle of street design.

Bulb outs created by snow for better pedestrian safety
Bulb outs created by snow for better pedestrian safety

These snowy neckdowns or “sneckdowns” have captured worldwide attention. In particular the sneckdowns have shown how pedestrian bulb outs would slow turning speeds for cars while reducing the distance for pedestrians to cross the street.

Now we don’t (fortunately, in my opinion) get snow in Auckland. However, I did see a reference to an Australian study (I couldn’t find the reference sorry) where the researchers scattered flour on a street and then took photos of the street as the flour was slowly scattered by cars. The experiment again illustrated how cars don’t use all the road space allocated to them and how easy it would be to create a more pleasant street environment.

In Auckland, instead of bulb outs we have slip lanes. These are safer and faster for only one mode, motor vehicles. For everyone else it becomes a game of frogger where the penalty for failure or error is death or injury. What fun!

To change this, undoubtedly AT will need to engage a team of consultants and “experts” to study (ad nauseum) whether these intuitively sensible and effective changes should be implemented. Then they will apply their only tool for assessing streets, the almighty (mono-modal) LEVEL OF SERVICE,  and decide (unsurprisingly) that this can’t happen because it will slow cars down. Exactly what it is intended to do.

Design based on a sneckdown in Philadelphia
Design based on a sneckdown in Philadelphia

However, in crazy, radical hippy communes like… Philadelphia and New York, they are just getting on and trying the new designs out. The traffic calming design on the right was instituted in Philadelphia directly based on sneckdowns. It is fast, temporary and even my non-traffic engineering brain-washed trained eye can see that this radically improves the design for pedestrians and cyclists.

Come on AT – get out there and make some changes. Repeat after me – fast, cheap, temporary. Now 1,000 times on the board.

Cycle lanes Cycling safety General News Infrastructure Overseas examples Research Traffic Calming
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11 responses to “Stealth road diets: The evolution of the “sneckdown”

  1. Yep, probably have snow in Auckland before AT gives us something like this. Really – who would copy a crazy place like NYC anyway.

  2. No need for snow in Hamilton to make this happen.
    Here are two safer access street improvements planned for Hamilton, Plan is have them built in next few months
    1. Oakley Ave Raised Platform, this is entrance to new 40km/h area
    2. Clyde / Knighton roundabout, note: this round has a mix of Pedestrian and cycle crossings on 3 of the connecting Streets.

    1. I do wonder why they didn’t just go for the widely recognised safer speed (and you could say standard) of 30 km/h?

      1. This how the council web site explain way 40 km/h,

        “As part of the early discussions, consideration was given at to what would be an appropriate speed for these areas, with 30km/h being preferred by some Councillors. 40km/h was chosen in preference to 30km/h for a number of reasons including:
        • The additional expenditure that would have been required for physical works in order to achieve
        operating speeds close to the speed limit
        • The general public acceptance of the lower speed limit
        • The expectation that even with a 40km/h speed limit in place, some braking/slowing of a vehicle
        could be expected in the case of an incident and therefore a impact speed of 30km/h was likely to
        be achieved.”

        1. So spend the money. 30 is proven. Hopefully they will start a program of rebuilding streets to enable the lower speed. If the limit is 40 kmh, experience tells me vehicles will be going closer to 50kmh.

          1. Even the Dutch have discovered that in 30kmh zones traffic can often be doing closer to 40 kmh.

  3. Congratulations Auckland – you are now being out ‘most liveable’d’ by Hamilton. And the houses are sensibly priced.

    1. And Hamilton has all the attributes to be a great cycle city. It is small and flat with much better weather than most cycle cities (no snow and ice in winter).

      Of course, it is held back by the same thing that holds back cycling everywhere else in NZ and the Anglophone world, good Dutch standard cycle infrastructure along with an obsession with providing facilities for private motor cars.

      The secret to mass cycling is the three Is – infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.

        1. I meant to say “not necessarily cycle infrastructure”

          And further comment on why 40 km/h, Hamilton’s District Plan reference to design speed environment for local residential streets is 40km/h. So in my opinion most new street should only need 40 km/h speed sign.

        2. Absolutely Peter, what is good for pedestrians is good for cyclists. We dont need separated cycle paths everywhere, just street design that doesnt prioritise the movement of metal boxes.

          Classic is the Fort Street shared space. Although it is good, cars still dominate the road as it is still a through route for cars.

          Seal off Jean Batten Place and Queen Street ends with cheap bollards and you have a real cycle and pedestrian haven. The only people who would access it are people parking in the small parking garage there and service vehicles. Now it is used by rat runners all the time.

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