17th and Q NW after the snowstorm. Image by Aaron Landry used with permission.

When there's a significant snow, we can see where motor vehicles are driving on the roads because they push the snow aside. The spots where this doesn't happen shows us where there's extra pavement that might be better used in other ways. These are called “sneckdowns.”

The word “sneckdown” somes from a portmanteau of “snow” and “neckdown,” one technical term for places the sidewalk extends into the roadway, such as in front of a parking lane. This is also often known as a curb extension or bulb-out, which is the word we use most often here.

A lightly-driven part of the roadway isn't absolute proof it's not necessary for motor vehicles, but it does challenge us to think about whether all of the space devoted to vehicular movement could instead accommodate larger sidewalks, bicycle lanes, bike parking or bikeshare stations, sidewalk cafes, trees, rain gardens, or other things we want more of in public space.

Aaron Landry, a resident and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Dupont Circle, took a walk Sunday around the neighborhood and photographed a number of “sneckdowns.” With the image above, he wrote, “Can you see the opportunities for curb extensions on 17th and Q NW? Easy way to make more sidewalk space, shorten crosswalks, and slow down speeders without removing lanes or parking.”

Image by Aaron Landry used with permission.

Landry wrote, “Here is Q, 18th, and New Hampshire NW where @ANC2B and @DDOTDC have already identified this as a location for more pedestrian space and a @bikeshare dock. Almost exactly in the same shape of this #sneckdown.”

Image by Aaron Landry used with permission.

“Never noticed this one before: a narrow sidewalk around Dupont Circle could be widened here, and made more accessible around the lamp,” Landry tweeted.

Image by Aaron Landry used with permission.

“Massive #sneckdown on New Hampshire at Dupont Circle. The tiny pedestrian island (look for the curb outline) could be more than doubled, making walking safer and calming traffic.”

Twitter user @artisanal_toast saw a clear sneckdown around the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro station:

Where are there sneckdowns in your neighborhood?

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.