It's been more than two years since I posted anything here, but these days I have been, in the back of my mind, sort of longing for my old blog. I admit that over the last few years I fell into doing the majority of my commentary on Twitter: the #ottbike community was robust and friendly and funny, and I got a job that really did take a lot of my time so the ultrashort form started to be easier for me. And it also got to be a habit during the pandemic, like I think it did for a lot of us, to doomscroll and consume content and yell at clouds (or, you know, at trolls).
But lately I've missed having a space to write things out at length. And a lot of the people I really enjoyed talking with on Twitter have left for the mammoth site or other alternative social media. Twitter now kind of feels like the sort of party where you thought it would be cooler but it's in fact kind of awful, and all the cool people are slowly just checking out, and a group in the corner is starting to shout drunkenly at high volume about something mindnumbingly dull. So, I thought, maybe I should start writing here again. Yes, blogging is probably a deeply deprecated Gen-X form of content creation and I should go get a TikTok account or something, but I'm not cute and I can't talk that fast, and I want to write. Besides: blogging is just subscription-free Substack, right?
So yeah: it's the very acromion of the shoulder season right now in Ottawa. Many, many years ago now, March 17th was the first day I started riding again after the snow started to clear. Tonight, it's misty and drizzly outside, the five-foot-high snowbanks are slowly granulating, and I'm noticing, from my apartment, that someone with a Honda Fit has obviously had it parked on the street below me for at least two weeks.
That car is about seven feet from the actual curb. It's parked at the outer edge of what was the snowbank, and it's clearly been there since at least the last time we needed to break out the snowplows, which was two weeks ago in the last massive snowstorm of the season.
It occurs to me that there are two things eloquently shown in this picture. One is that although everywhere in the city there is a three-hour parking maximum, in point of actual fact that is bullshit and you can store your car pretty much anywhere you want for as long as you want. The plow came by on March 3 and politely went around this vehicle and all the others parked on this street, and the car stayed there for two weeks, untouched, while the spring thaw kicked in and the snowbanks around it turned to corn snow and started to slump into the street.
The other: this is the very definition of a "sneckdown."
If you don't know what a "sneckdown" is, it's a sort of portmanteau of "snow" and "neckdown." A neckdown is where a sidewalk widens to narrow the street: it's a form of traffic calming (not my favorite, honestly, but that's as may be). But a "sneckdown" is where you realize just how much of the pavement that's been handed to cars is not actually needed, because snow has accumulated and no one's cleared it. No one's needed to. No one has even had to drive through the uncleared area. So, obviously, you could just take that area, hand it back to active road users, narrow the street down to what cars actually use - thereby calming traffic because drivers have to slow up more to use narrower turns - and call it a day.
If it was that easy.
Not that the street I'm looking down at from my building should be the first priority for something like that. It has reasonable sidewalks on both sides. It's in a quiet neighbourhood, one where kids actually do play on the street in places, and where even though some streets have no sidewalks, it feels safe to walk in those streets. This street doesn't need the sneckdown analysis that others do. But look at that car. Those cars. How far they are from the actual curb right now, without interfering with traffic on the street - it's still plenty wide enough. Look at the amount of space claimed by decaying snow because no one actually needs it. Does that space really need to be paved over? Could we put some grass there? Trees maybe?