Reclaiming the alleys

Alleys are often dark, dingy spaces reserved for utilitarian uses.  However cities are starting to recognize the potential of these spaces.  Melbourne in particular is famous for transforming its alleyways (or laneways as they are known down under) into vibrant public space full of cafes, shops and public art.


Vancouver has also started utilizing its alleys and harnessing their full potential.  Laneway housing bylaws have been approved in July 2013 and the how-to guide has been published in November 2016.


In downtown Vancouver two recent projects have added to the vibrancy of the city:

An alley south of Hastings Street was painted in bright pink and orange and hop-scotch grids and a basketball hoops have been added to the mix.


And a back alley of the recently-completed Telus Garden is being transformed into pedestrian space with nice paving and whimsical lanterns.

Why would you put it there?!?

Street furniture is great; it enhances our streets and makes the streets more livable.  But sometimes I encounter a piece of street furniture that is places in the most location, often impeding pedestrian movement.

Renfrew Street north of East Broadway, Vancouver. This bus shelter is placed in the middle of the sidewalk.  Imaging having to get around it if you are pushing a stroller if are in a wheelchair.


Another example of poorly placed infrastructure is this parking meter; it takes up a quarter of the sidewalk.


After I contacted the local city councilor, the meter was actually moved off the sidewalk.

Quote of the day: Bing Thom

Bing Thom, architect and one of the forefathers of ” Vancouverism” passed away last Tuesday. His attitude towards architecture is summed up well in this quote:

“My client is more than the person who pays me. My client is society and the public.”

Here are two examples of his work:  and

Bishop, CA murals

Hiking the PCT we stop in towns near the trail to rest and resupply.   Another benefit to the stops and R&R, I get to see many examples of positive  (or not) decisions regarding public spaces.

On our recent stop in Bishop, CA I saw many interesting murals.  Livening up blank walls and reflecting local history, they are a great addition to the public realm.