Home > Complete Streets, Design the Details, Traffic Calming > The big snow that slows us down

The big snow that slows us down

Snowy Neckdowns…via Streetfilms


See any of these over weekend?

The above film was made last year after a particularly large storm on the east coast. Over the weekend Northern Michigan had its own big dump of snow and we all realized that sometimes it is best to stay home. Benzie County even wisely publicized that the roads were closed rather than have over-confident motorists driving around.

Still, if we did venture out, we had an excellent opportunity to see traffic calming treatments (MW) in action. Fresh, heavy snowfalls have a way of piling-up just right to offer a nice preview of the impacts traffic calming promises. Namely, smoother, slower traffic through the neighborhoods.

The following snowy bump-out was tweeted to me by Laramie Bates of Griffin Street with the tag, “No speeders through the alley since this little guy showed up.”

On Lincoln St, the 32 foot wide street was narrowed to about 28 ft. Narrowing of the streets is probably the easiest traffic calming treatment we can ask for. Like other streets, Lincoln also had its share of bump-outs and chicanes, as seen below.

The snow also reveals how over built some of our streets and intersections are. Something shown before (MW).  The image below is at one of the most frustrating intersections to cross on foot in the City, Milliken Drive and E. Front St. It is bad enough that at two times a day there are hundreds of teenage drivers racing through here, but during the rest of the day the intersection’s design creates other hazards. Simply, it is built for speed, not safety.

For me, the snow-island below shows the extra swing built into the curve to assist people in cars carry speed as they are turning off of Front St. and onto Milliken. It is created because the space the island takes up is not needed, unless the intention is to move cars quickly around the curve., which just happens to cause a lot of close calls with pedestrians. A narrower intersection here would be great.


What did you witness with the snowfall?

Any images of snowy traffic calming to share? 






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  1. JohnRobertWilliams
    March 6, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Not to sound “complainy”, but the snow fell on Friday and many of the sidewalks have yet to have any visit by the sidewalk crew. Right downtown, the sidewalks in the 100 and 200 blocks of Front Street are an embarrassment. TART was out in force on Sunday, but the main city walks entering downtown are still untouched today, after the city actively fills and covers the sidewalks with the spoils from the street…I cannot even get to a crossing or a light…..I used my snow blower to get about 500′ of Front Street whittled down, but the driveway plows have built huge bunkers across the sidewalk no snow blower can handle…so I turned around….The north side of Front Street has two major city properties…the Senior Center and Sunset Park….the snow is 3′ plus deep….and the city has the right to patrol residents to keep the sidewalk clear, but they have not cleared the north side of Front Street from the Holiday Inn, east, this winter….luckily, it’s been a light winter…..TART HAS kept the trail open, but TART does not clear from the Murchie Bridge, east. Thank you TART! Well done! State Street, where the snow-melt system has been installed is free and clear….why don’t we make that a policy? If we desire for downtown TC to be a magnet, and repel every walker, what is the signal we are sending? It snows in winter…clear it. How hard is that? Thank you Gary!

  2. Marya
    March 6, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Very perceptive, Gary. Thanks.

  3. Greg
    March 6, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Regarding Milliken Drive and E. Front St., why would someone try to cross there. There is a light and crosswalk half a block away at Fair and also down at Garfield.

  4. March 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    The foot traffic referred to is crossing east – west. It is one of the more difficult places to cross in the City made more difficult with cars turning onto Milliken at high speeds. The design encourages the higher speeds.

  5. March 6, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Awesome analysis! It’s like a form of Tactical Urbanism without the forethought… this could be the beginnings of a great paper presented at the CNU (“Lessons from Nature on Traffic Calming”)…

  6. March 6, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    A City Commissioner sent me this message today:

    Due to the large number of trees downed by the heavy snow, the sidewalks are covered with tree limbs. The sidewalk snow machines have had great difficulty due to this and the limbs jamb and break them. They have been working to clear the walks but they have to make runs to the garage everytime one is jambed, making the process very difficult. People need to understand this was a MAJOR snow emergancy and that the side walks will get cleared once the the roads and power lines are fixed.


    Certainly, we all could do more to assist the City public works department make the City accessible for all–but, that was the case even before the big snow. There is a City ordinance in place making the clearing of the walk way in front of their property the owner’s responsibility. Rarely, if ever, is it enforced.

    Thank you to everyone who has shoveled/cleared a little extra this winter!

  7. T. Werner
    March 7, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Oak St. between 12th and 13th is a main walking approach to TCAPS Montessori. As of this morning, the sidewalk along the west side had not been cleared by the City. On the east side there is not a sidewalk.

    A clear sign to me of what the City thinks is and is not important.

  8. Brian
    March 7, 2012 at 10:27 am

    The sidewalks on 10th Street, near Oryana, and TART, are a real mix of consditions. Some residents never clear in front of their houses and the City came through with their snow blower before any of the fallen limbs were cleared. 10th itself was cleared curb to curb by mid-morning Saturday. I see a lot of pedestrians everyday on 10th St, and the majority of them now find it safer to walk in the street.

    I think the City has done a good job of cleaning up from this storm, but we need to start demanding the City to put more emphasis on our pedestrian infrastructure. Before 10th St was cleared Saturday, I didn’t see any of the cars or the fire truck struggling to get through the snow covered street, but I still see pedestrians looking for a safe route 5 days later.

  9. March 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    To the anonymous commentator trying desperately to rant on this post, if you resubmit your comments without hostility and insults, it will be approved.

    If I may, let me paraphrase his comments: people need to recognize the hard task it is for the City to maintain the streets and sidewalks. It does little good to complain about it when we all know City staff is being cut and budgets are tight. The City should be commended for their valiant effort.

    Anyone wishing to rant with insults, instead of a comment, please send me a message.

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