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What Big Snow Can Tell Us About Our Streets

9:30 AM PST on December 22, 2009

So the snow that hit the Northeast over the weekend is gradually sublimating and melting away, and a couple of the blogs on the Streetsblog Network are looking at the difference in the way municipalities treated pedestrians and motorists during and after the first big storm of the winter.

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has posted a telling video shot by local bike shop owner Michael McGettigan. It shows how, two days after the last flakes fell, the sidewalk on the Walnut Street Bridge -- the busiest pedestrian bridge crossing in the state of Pennsylvania -- remained uncleared. As a result, those on foot were forced out into the well-plowed roadway with motor vehicles.

As the BCGP blog notes, some private property owners are being ticketed for not shoveling the sidewalks in front of their homes, but "apparently the city doesn't ticket giant transportation agencies for not keeping sidewalks clear."

Meanwhile, network member Greater Greater Washington launched a discussion about whether local officials and news media in the DC area were right to tell pedestrians to stay off the streets during and immediately after the storm. The blog's David Alpert asks:

Was that the smart move to ensure safety, or another sign of how oursociety has come to view streets as the exclusive province of cars? ...A snowstorm that cuts down the level of traffic and restricts theusable space in the roadway is an opportunity to examine how we thinkabout streets.

That's exactly what Clarence Eckerson did in this video from the Streetfilms archives, which captured conditions on NYC streets in the wake of a blizzard that hit the city in February 2006. Check out the naturally occurring neckdowns (h/t @guiweinmann).

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