Gritdowns! Okay, have you seen “Sneckdowns” showing pictures of intersections in the winter? The snow that doesn’t get tracks in it can indicate where vehicles actually drive… and the space that is dedicated to asphalt that might not be needed.

Well… Anchorage has the same but with spring gravel (which might be one of the most Anchorage things ever?). This is a different data point, as drivers can see lane markings. This post has photos and commentary on what I see in them.

Special thanks to Jonny Hayes for coining the term Gritdowns when presented with this phenomenon.

The photo below illustrates how vehicle wheels move gravel away from the travel route. It also illustrates the misery of how much gravel can be in pedestrian routes. Imagine being on crutches, in a wheelchair, or someone super dedicated to keeping rollerblading alive.

This mini-gritdown that illustrates typical travel routes and turning movements.

A frequently used site entry where the wheels have cleared the sidewalk of gravel.

A lesser-used entry where the gravel is just doing its thing.

This property owner missed a chance to be community-minded. They’ve cleared their lot nicely but missed the opportunity to clear the adjacent sidewalk. It could actually be that some of their gravel wound up on the sidewalk. See the photos after this one to see how sidewalks actually show how pedestrian foot traffic also seems to have some clearing benefits. So, in this photo, gravel was either added, or pedestrians are walking over the adjacent asphalt.

And here we see evidence of pedestrians—both in the sign indicating their presence for the next 1500 feet and in the clearer sidewalk away from the road. There may be other factors in play for the level of gravel on the sidewalk, but stay tuned for other photos related to this.

If you look at the pedestrian refuge area halfway across this intersection, you’ll see a great example of a fully mature adult Gritdown.

Here I am at the pedestrian refuge. I’m being very quiet to get a photo of the fully mature adult Gritdown that has bedded down here. This is a difficult habitat, but it is made possible because vehicles have no reason to disturb this area.

Sidewalk time! See the wider sidewalk with maybe about 2 feet being more clear to the right? The next photo shows the same on a narrow sidewalk. A factor at play could be that the sidewalk stretch in this photo is just after an intersection. Intersections do receive more gravel.

A narrower sidewalk with the same clear area on the right is likely (at least in part) a result of people’s feet moving the gravel around. Or maybe not. This study is not yet conclusive. It’s just pure speculation at the moment.