How a little snow can help bicycle advocates

Following Thursday’s snowfall, many children in the Centre Region rejoiced, while many of their parents let out the long groan of knowing, “That driveway isn’t going to shovel itself.”  Even the most diehard of cyclists probably thought twice before riding out into the fresh powder that covered State College.  However, a few members of CentreBike rejoiced because they knew it meant discovering the hidden gem of bicycle advocacy: Sneckdowns!

This is because “sneckdowns” are what you get when you combine “snow” and the urban planning jargon of “neckdowns”. A “neckdown” refers to curb extensions, where the road is narrowed, usually at an intersection or a pedestrian crossing. Snow that piles up around intersections does so because it is a section of the road that continues to be unused by vehicles.  These snowy curb extensions are extra space, which could be re-purposed for all sorts of things: plazas, greenery, rain gardens, bike facilities, or you name it!

If you lived in the area before 2014 you may remember a time when the crosswalk in front of the CVS at Beaver & Pugh was nearly a car’s length wider.  That was until curb bulbs were designed by engineers, making the intersection narrower with the added effect of slowing down motorists.  The effect is simple because drivers who feel that an intersection is tighter, naturally drive slower.  While the lanes themselves didn’t actually become any narrower, (it was the shoulder which shrank) the effect was the same.  Other examples of “traffic calming” can be seen on Old Gatesburg road in the form of traffic circles, and in many other places around town.

Slower traffic makes roads more bicycle friendly and intersections safer.  Shorter and safer crosswalks can benefit families on gameday, senior citizens, and visitors from out of town during State College’s numerous events throughout the year. If you know of an intersection where you think motorists might be traveling too fast… or a road which could benefit from a bicycle facility, look for a sneckdown.  If you see one snap a picture, tag @CentreBike and the use hashtag #sneckdowns.  There are no cool radio DJ level prizes… but CentreBike will review traffic calming during its March meeting and your photo could be selected as a prime example!

If you are interested in learning more about sneckdowns and traffic calming, consider clicking on the video below.


We look forward to seeing you at our next regular meeting on March 13th in the State College borough building, room 241 at 5:30.  Until then be on the lookout for sneckdowns and get tagging!