Making the Most of Urban Laneways

Montreal
Many western cities have laneways that originally were used for deliveries via horses and cart; today those laneways are under utilized. These laneways cannot always be used for housing or other normal city needs due to their limited size. They can, however, be converted to enjoyable public space. Today there’s a trend amongst some cities like Montreal, Melbourne, and now Toronto to make their laneways into enjoyable little environments.

In this context, laneways can play a role both environmentally and socially. The Laneway Project has produced a guide to greening laneways, which outlines several strategies to introduce plants of all shapes and sizes between garages or behind stores.

From an environmental perspective, small changes to laneways can enhance biodiversity and reduce the urban heat island effect. Representing approximately 200,000 square metres of paved surfaces, laneways can also be adapted to improve storm water management. Senayah describes the Laneway Project’s puncture demonstration as “a meter-wide ribbon of green.” The permeable pavers not only reduce runoff but also add playful patterns to areas that are often overlooked.

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Bike Lanes are Good for Everybody

Urban

Bike lanes are amazing! They give users of the roads an area which protects emission-free bicycle riding. They bring local business lots of profits and they improve towns. Bike lanes are almost a panacea to the plight of current urban planning in North America. Indeed, bike lanes are even great for car drivers – the very class of road users that usually throw shade on bicycling.

Myriad factors contribute to livability but I can tell you from experience one of the things that makes a city great, is the ability to get around without driving. Walking streets, promenades, bike paths and great public transportation create a healthier, more active, more affordable and environmentally friendly city for everyone.

In cities such as Adelaide, Copenhagen and Amsterdam a focus on providing safer and more efficient solutions for pedestrians and cyclists has lead to their cities being heralded for happiness and quality of life.

Another reason I’m a fan of bike lanes as a driver is because I’m afraid of hitting one, and bike lanes provide a clear boundary between where my car should be, and where my friends on two wheels should be.

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Bike Share Parking More Efficient Than Car Parking

Bike share programs have taken the world by storm, more cities than ever before are using bike sharing systems as part of their transit solutions. Bike sharing allows for a mixture of bicycle rides mixed with mass transit. The popularity of bike sharing amongst commuters is also on the rise, to capture how popular the system is one enterprising individual set up a camera right beside a bike sharing station in New York. Notice how many people are utilizing the bike share parking versus the cars that stay stationary.

Luke Ohlson recently recorded the mad rush in time lapse at 5 p.m. on a weekday to make a point about transit in New York. “Parking takes up 150,000 acres of New York City street space, yet a majority of New Yorkers do not drive or use cars,” says Ohlson, a senior organizer at Transportation Alternatives, an activist group that promotes biking, walking, and public transit. “If we use some of the public space that is currently allocated to parking differently, the whole neighborhood can benefit.”

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Oslo Improves its City Centre by Banning Car Parking


The Norwegian capital of Oslo dealt with an interesting proposition of banning all cars in the city centre by compromising. At first business and some residents (only 30% of urban dwellers own cars in Norway) didn’t like the proposal at all claiming it would ruin neighbourhoods and business. To address their concerns the city rolled out a ban on parking within the city centre, the freed space would be used to productive use as public space and bike lanes. The ultimate result is that the business are doing better than before and the city is a better place to live.

The council’s clever solution? Rather than banning cars, it would ban parking – all 650 on-street parking spots. In their place, “we’ll put up installations and create public spaces,” says Berg, referring to six pilot areas. “Some will be playgrounds or cultural events, or [contain] benches or bike parking – or other things you can fill the space with when you don’t have 1,200 kilograms of glass and steel.”

Oslo’s transformation will be rolled out in three phases. In stage one, all on-street parking within Ring 1 will be removed, as well as some parking in surrounding areas deemed to be “in conflict with bike development”. Car parks in and around the central zone will stay, but many other on-street parking spaces will be freed up for alternative uses.

Stage two, in 2018, will see the pedestrian network extended, and close several streets to private traffic; shared space will be introduced, and 40 miles of bike lanes built.

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Thanks to Kathryn and Janet!

How Pressure from Pedestrians and Cyclists Make Better Cities

Depending on where you live you may think streets are for people or for cars. The correct answer is that streets are for moving people and not built for the need of inanimate objects. In an interesting series of videos the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume examines the different urban design decisions between suburban and urban neighbourhoods. The urban areas that promote cycling and walking are understandably the most vibrant, interesting, and productive (economically and culturally). The impact non-car uses can have on streets is evident and something that every city can benefit from.

Unsurprisingly, Toronto’s most vibrant streets — Queen, College, Bloor — are generally narrow car-slowing thoroughfares lined with unspectacular buildings between two and six storeys tall — hardly the stuff of vehicular convenience. The major interruptions in these mostly intact streetscapes are largely the result of clumsy modern interventions beginning in the 1950s and ’60s. Decades later in what’s now Vertical City, we still have difficulty making buildings work at street level. Architects are slowly learning, but have yet to master the skills of contextualism. They prefer the silence of the vacuum and ignore the public realm whenever possible.

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