Shakin’ on Sneckdown Street

January 25, 2016 by

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Despite the early unseasonably warm weather and few storms thus far in New Hampshire, it’s time to bring up a dirty word: Snow. Normally acceptable only to winter sport aficionados and fans of Disney’s Frozen, snow can actually be a very useful tool, and one that we can all pay attention to and utilize.

Snow can show us how we use our city streets; more specifically, the area of our streets that are actually used by cars, despite how much space is dedicated to them. The area left covered by snow, as shown by the tracks the cars have left, is called a “Sneckdown.” According to a photo essay on, “if you haven’t heard of a “sneckdown” yet, it’s a clever combination of “snow” and “neckdown” – another name for a curb expansion –     that uses snow formations on the street to reveal the space cars don’t use.”

At the risk of reminding anyone of the sheer amount of snow we received last winter, we at McHenry Architecture have highlighted a few examples from downtown Portsmouth that illustrates Sneckdowns in action, and how we have an opportunity to claim more of our streets for pedestrians or other modes of transportation, and enhance the walkability that so much of our city does so well.

Outside of the areas obviously utilized by cars, highlighted in blue are areas that could be reclaimed.

Chapel Street:Chapel Street_SneckdownsHere looking up Chapel Street from Daniel Street, it is clear that only one lane is really utilized, and the more space could be dedicated to sidewalks.

Daniel Street:Daniel Street_SneckdownsOn Daniel Street, at the intersection with Penhallow, there is an opportunity to narrow the single lane of traffic (also known as part of a ‘Road Diet’), still include parking on both sides, and still widen sidewalks for pedestrians. The curb bump-outs, as utilized in other areas of the city, help protect parked cars, as well as narrow the intersection, creating safer conditions for pedestrians, as well as better sight-lines for cars. Opportunities on wider sidewalks could then be taken advantage of: mini-pocket parks, areas for street trees, outdoor seating – just to name a few!

Market Square:Market Square_SneckdownsLooking down at Market Square where Market Street, Daniel Street, and Congress Street converge, is another example of how useful Sneckdowns can be. Rethinking the large amount of space between Market Street and Daniel Street, as well as reclaiming the outside edges, could help Market Square feel as though its primary focus was on the people, rather than the cars.

As this is a city we all love, we hope to start a conversation in the comments section and see your pictures of all the opportunities out there. So the next time it snows, after we’ve all dug out, we hope you’ll join us in checking out the Sneckdowns!


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