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.
Walking the streets of Montreal already provides a pleasant experience – and it’s about to get better. The city has dedicated an additional $1.7 million to what it already spends on making selected streets car free. The pedestrian areas promote local artists and encourage people to visit neighbourhoods throughout the municipality. People love the initiative and hopefully other cities can adopt such a neat city building exercise.
Under Montreal’s system, the first year of a car-free street is treated like a trial. The city observes how well the space is used, as well as the effect on motor vehicle traffic and local businesses. If the first year is a success, the city will commit to permanent changes or bring the car-free segment back on a seasonal basis every year.
The city reports that public opinion of the program is very favorable, and most of the pedestrian streets last beyond the pilot phase, either as permanent car-free spaces or seasonal pedestrian zones during the warmer months, according to the CBC.
Bixi is a bike sharing program that started in Montreal but the concept exists in cities around the world. In Montreal where there are more bicycle commuters every year,researchers at McGill University surveyed cyclists before and after Bixi began. They were able to identify the types of cyclists that ride and their commitment to commuting via bicycle.
The study found that cycling demographics are changing rapidly. In a 2008 Montreal study, conducted before Bixi and the growth of bike paths, 65 percent were men and 35 percent women. But in 2013, the study included 60 percent men and 40 percent women.
The age of cyclists also is dropping. The average age of the 2013 cyclists was 37.3 years old, compared with 42 years old in a 2008 study. But the study also showed cyclists’ income skews high. In 2008, 13 percent of cyclists had a household income of $100,000 or more. In the 2013, one-quarter of the respondents’ household income was above $100,000.
Based on the results, the researchers said a one-size-fits-all approach might not be the right way to encourage more cycling. Emphasizing health benefits, for instance, works best with first-time and returning cyclists, but doesn’t affect the most committed cyclists who ride for different reasons.
“It’s pretty inexpensive, even if you’re just going to use it once a week,” said Daniel Egan, the city’s manager of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. “There are a number of milestones we need to achieve by the end of November in order to launch this for next year. And one of those is to sign up 1,000 members. It’s really to protect the city and the (BIXI) company from financial risk — to know there’s a demand for this.”
The city will also need to secure $600,000 in corporate sponsors and locate appropriate docking sites. Both are well underway, says Egan.
“Quite frankly I think our biggest challenge will be the demand for more bikes once this program launches,” said Egan.
The ruggedly designed bikes are adjustable and designed to fit all body types. The wheels generate electricity to power the fixed-on lights.
Here’s a novel idea: move all your belongings only using a bike. You can do it regardless of where you live, but in Montreal you can hire someone else to do the hard work for you. Transport Myette is a new moving company in Montreal that uses only bikes.
Myette boasts that his fledgling moving company, Transport Myette, will tow just about anything that can be stacked on his modified bike trailers.
“Pretty much anything, except for pianos, of course,” he said Tuesday at a job, where he and two of his employees carefully pieced together – with the help of duct tape and straps – intricate piles of large household items, including a mattress, a stove and a fridge onto the flatbeds.
The Montreal resident’s inspiration to launch the bike-moving business came while surfing the Internet last summer. Myette stumbled upon the website of an American company that sold mini-trailers.
Up until then, he had been working for a moving company that used a truck.
“I’ve always been a cyclist, I’ve always cared about the environment, so it just seemed natural to me to combine the two,” said Myette, who bought his first custom trailer last fall for $1,000 and now owns three.
Workers pull the trailers with standard mountain bikes equipped with powerful hydraulic disc brakes – for the steep descents.
Outside of peak periods, Transport Myette charges just $25 an hour for one worker with a trailer, $35 an hour for two workers and two trailers and $50 an hour for three of each.