What Big Snow Can Tell Us About Our Streets

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 our
society has come to view streets as the exclusive province of cars? …A snowstorm that cuts down the level of traffic and restricts the
usable space in the roadway is an opportunity to examine how we think
about 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).

  • EL

    Anyone ever notice that the roads are used by emergency services and truck deliveries for… say…. FOOD? Perhaps that is a reason why the roads are cleared of snow first, and in that regard, to provide an element of public safety and need? Hmmmm….

  • I noticed the same thing here in Curtis Bay, MD, where I am for the holidays. It is now December 26, and the sidewalks have been covered in snow the whole time since the snowstorm about a week or more ago. I went for a walk to the grocery store two days ago. The store is 1.5 miles away. For most of the walk, I had to walk in one of the oncoming lanes of traffic. Cars had to change lanes so they wouldn’t hit me. I was prepared to dive into the snow on the side if needed.

    For about half of the walk, the shoulder of the road was available, but there was no sidewalk the whole way. I was the only walker for the whole round trip.

    Sad state of affairs here in the suburbs outside of Baltimore!


Danish Architect Jan Gehl on Good Cities for Walking

Editor’s note: Streetsblog San Francisco is thrilled to present a three-part series this week by renowned Danish architect and livable streets luminary Jan Gehl. The pieces are excerpts from his book, “Cities for People” published by Island Press. This is part two. Donate to Streetsblog SF and you’ll qualify to win a copy of the […]