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What the heck is a sneckdown, and what can it teach us about our cities?

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A graphic designer has turned last week's snowstorm into an exercise in urban planning.

Iain Campbell, 24, is the man behind Toronto Sneckdowns, a blog devoted to pictures of snow-covered intersections. The point of the site, he says, is to illustrate how much road space cars actually need vs. how much they're given.

Sneckdown is a mashup of "snowy" and "neckdown," which is planning jargon for a sidewalk extension that acts to calm traffic. The term was coined in early 2014, and the #sneckdown hashtag often trends on Twitter after snowstorms.

"It's a great visual metaphor," Campbell said. "We have all this space, and it's all allocated to cars. These pictures clearly show how much of that space we're not using."

Campbell started his blog Thursday, after he snapped a shot of Ossington Avenue and Foxley Street on his way to work.

"Foxley is a one-way street, but it's like three lanes wide coming off of Ossington," he said. "You could probably take that turn at 50 km/h."

Campbell believes sneckdown photos can be used as a planning tool, highlighting areas where sidewalks could be widened or where bike lanes could be installed.

"And it's not like we'd be taking that space away from cars. They're not even using it."

It looks like the City of Toronto agrees. Municipal planners have recently revised guidelines for lane widths, narrowing them to between three and 3.2 metres. The policy is meant to reduce speeding and free up space for other uses.

"We're having a moment across North America where we're realizing our streets are designed terribly and now we're starting to have that conversation in Toronto," Campbell said. "I hope this blog can show people that... for very little municipal spending, we could have safer – and ultimately better – roads."

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