Livable Laneways

by kristin on October 16, 2011

in Events

Yesterday I switched roles and participated in the Livable Laneways workshop hold by Sustainable Calgary in the Ant Hill building. I didn’t know back alleys before moving to Canada. A nameless street with no other purpose than garbage collection and parking. How weird is that?

Stories from other participants quickly changed my perspective. Heather told us how she meets her neighbours in the laneway for garage sales or a chat about the garden. “You actually get to see them, their yards and garages, their real life.” She has developed many a relationship with her neighbours in the alleyway. Cate remembered her best childhood fried who lived just across the alley. “We set up a ‘phone system’ across the alleyway with my brother’s toys so we could keep talking from one house to the other.” And they spent many hours playing in the laneway, being safe from the traffic on the road.

We split our group into three teams for different laneways. My team explored the laneway between 1st and 2nd Avenue from the train tracks to the Sunnyside School. It is paved and in good condition but looks rather out of sight, out of mind. In the one hour we spent there we saw two pedestrians but over a dozen cars coming through. Not much traffic for a paved road; with some paint we could see it quickly becoming a play area for kids close to home, a safe route to school and a bike pathway off the main roads. An already existing elevated garden above a condo parking space would make a nice public space and add some greenery to the back alley. One challenge in the laneway is the lack of light which makes the area shady and sketchy. Some garages are unused and worn down – secondary homes and small local shops that cater to the residents would add more life to the laneway and increase safety.

None of this might happen. But it was much fun envisioning the possibilities with my team and seeing the back alley with different eyes. Common idea among all groups: more shared resources like community gardens and activity nodes to connect neighbours.

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