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Thread: Elements of Urban Design - Alleys

  1. #26
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Originally posted by Runner
    Far too hard for some people.
    Nonsense. We require that garbage cans be screened in a side or back yard, and garbage may only be put out the day before pick-up. It is enforced. After a citation or two, everybody catches on. Besides, I don't think you really mean to suggest that an unsightly mess of trash is not appropriate for a public street, but is perfectly acceptible in your New Urbanist playground/residential lane/pedestrian-friendly alley.

    Your argument for police enforcement is also a weak one. From a squad car, you can see just as well into a back yard screened by a 6' privacy fence whether you are in an alley or a street. As far as crime conducted in the open, most will either happen inside of cars or in secluded locations. Alleys provide those locations with less activity, and roads are easier to patrol. Don't underestimate the intelligence of a grapefruit.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Most alleys here in chicago are a straight shot for a block. Police cars can easily get down them. I do admit that they are more lightly used than the street, and there are many times when there's no one in my alley (I've never seen any children play in it but I live near a very nice park). I'd actually like to see crime statistics for alleys. I'm sure they increase home invasions, but the question should be by how much.

    They solve so many city problems (car storage being most important), that they might be worth a few break-ins.

  3. #28
    Cyburbian Runner's avatar
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    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    After a citation or two, everybody catches on.
    Some will never catch on.

    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    I don't think you really mean to suggest that an unsightly mess of trash is not appropriate for a public street, but is perfectly acceptable in your New Urbanist playground/residential lane/pedestrian-friendly alley.
    No, your correct but on trash day even the neatest of persons leave a mess.

    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    Your argument for police enforcement is also a weak one. From a squad car, you can see just as well into a back yard screened by a 6' privacy fence whether you are in an alley or a street.
    Actually no, seeing over/around/through a 6' fence will be far easier considering potential activity of interest may be directly on the other side of the fence versus on the other side of the fence and the lot/house, etc. You are also forgetting other senses that are used: hearing and smell. Alleys have the potential to put the cops and other enforcement personnel closer to the action (for better or worse).

    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    As far as crime conducted in the open, most will either happen inside of cars or in secluded locations. Alleys provide those locations with less activity
    True, alleys do have the potential of violating the "eyes on the street" principle.

    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    roads are easier to patrol
    Roads or alleys are going to be similar to patrol, both can be driven by patrol car, ridden by a bike cop, or walked by foot.

    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    Don't underestimate the intelligence of a grapefruit.
    I won't, thatís why I said less than a grapefruit. I'll hold that no one has ever been guilty of overestimating the collective intelligence of the IACP.

  4. #29
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Thanks for the help

    Thanks for the comments. I think it is time for this thread to say by-by. It doesn't need to be a fighting match.

    Hello, Bruce
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

    You know...for kids.

  5. #30
    Cyburbian Runner's avatar
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    mendelman,

    No ones fighting, just discussing with conviction. You'll see a lot of that around here. Welcome to the debates It's all done without intention of ruffling any feathers.

    Although, I guess if you are a police administrator your feathers may be a little out of alignment with my IACP comment If you are I appologize it was not directed at you.

  6. #31
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Originally posted by JNL
    I'll have to take your word on it biscuit!

    I still don't see why these things should take place out the back. If the street is not safe enough for kids to play in their front yards, then that is a problem that needs to be addressed.
    It's not that the street is not safe enough, althoughI'm sure many aren't, it's that there are no front yards in my neighborhood - All the houses are built "zero lot line." Even the neighborhoods where people have front yards they tend to be very small because of the extremely hilly geography here in the city. This has been addressed through an extensive system of large parks.

  7. #32

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    I can understand why some suburban homebuyers may not want alleys; typical buyers might dislike anything that may convey the idea of density and the "old neighborhood". But how is it that public works, police and fire officials would be against alleys?

    It would seem to me that anything that gives these guys more access to fulfilling their services would be fine. Not all neighborhoods in Chicago have alleys, and I've talked to Streets and San guys who wished they did. And I've had developers balk when I've told them that a new development must have an 18' alley right-of-way, as preferred by Police, Fire, Streets and San and CDOT.

    Alleys don't work everywhere, but it seems they could be used a lot more.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    What about placing alleys into a historical context? Weren't they used for access to horse barns, back in the day before cars? Horses poop, so didn't it make sense to put them in back and out of sight? Perhaps I'm wrong about the specifics, but I think my point is clear: examine the history of why alleys were placed where they were and then determine if they are appropriate for today's motorized world. Perhaps they are just an anachronism.

    But what about the relationship between land use and transportation? If residential areas have low levels of daily auto trips, then what's the harm in having the driveway lead to the road?

  9. #34
    Cyburbian Runner's avatar
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    Originally posted by Alan
    But what about the relationship between land use and transportation? If residential areas have low levels of daily auto trips, then what's the harm in having the driveway lead to the road?
    They can work on some occasions but the reason to avoid the front loading is to shift priority back to the pedestrian. Without alleys you may end up with something like this (view actually shows front of house - talk about curb apeal):

  10. #35
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Originally posted by Runner
    They can work on some occasions but the reason to avoid the front loading is to shift priority back to the pedestrian.
    Sure. But how often are the cars backing out of and pulling into the driveways? If it's a neighborhood full of single-family homes, then the queing of automobiles through the driveways and into the streets is minimal. As long as there are sidewalks, then pedestrians will have no trouble moving past all the driveways. The amount of auto traffic through a neighborhood is minimal and the sidewalk provides a safe and comfortable realm away from the street. This can be achieved without a dependence on alleyways.

    Regarding the pic:



    Are you saying alleyways are appropriate in farm country?

  11. #36
    Cyburbian oulevin's avatar
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    Alleys

    Living in the southwest most of my life, only new, expensive subdivisions have alleys. If the purpose is to have an attractive streetside, I think sidefencing with doors are adequately discrete housing for trash cans. Municipalites can enforce earliest put-out and latest put-back times for cans.

    On a side note, with those newer developments, I found those no-trash can and no-car frontage rules a bit oppresive and pretentious. Sure, it makes the neighborhood eye-pleasing. But I noticed that none of those neighborhoods that are supposed to be more "street-friendly" featured porches, and sometimes, sidewalks. It's like a house with museum-quality art and marble-tile floors -- classy, but not necessarily encouraging of human contact...or inviting. Streetlife was nil.

  12. #37
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Allen wrote:
    Are you saying alleyways are appropriate in farm country?
    I don't think that's farm country. Notice the sidewalk extending a few feet off the driveway. I think the thing is located in soon-to-be suburbia, but it dosen't have any neighbors yet.

  13. #38
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Granted, that is an ugly house. Yet many New Urban neighborhoods do have front-loading garages and driveways to the street. They impose design controls to ensure that homes like that one are not permitted. Again, alleys are just one technique. They may be appropriate in one place but not others. Not everything built needs to look like a turn-of-the-20th-century city neighborhood.

  14. #39
    Cyburbian
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    Alley Materials

    Not exactly this post but close.

    Now, at times there are problems with people speeding through alleys at speeds that may be relatively low but, because of such a confined space, are very dangerous.

    Newer alleys where I live are concrete, however in some of the older neighborhoods a cobblestone alley is retained. While this surface is not the most smooth and ill suited to normal car-ways, can this material be adopted for alley construction. It is very durable, no car will go too fast on cobblestone, and it definitley adds character to urban neighborhoods.

  15. #40
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Originally posted by biscuit
    [Bthere are no front yards in my neighborhood - All the houses are built "zero lot line." [/B]
    I'm starting to get the picture now, it sounds very different to what I'm used to. Zero lot lines are not very common here - even older inner city houses tend to be set back a few metres.

    Apart from 'driving my girlfriend home', where are you based biscuit?

  16. #41
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    Originally posted by JNL
    Apart from 'driving my girlfriend home', where are you based biscuit?
    The steel city, Pittsburgh, PA

    Here's a photo of the neighborhood (not my street) where I'm currently living. I'm going to be moving out this winter when my lease is up and hopefully buying a place with more closet space before I get married...the girl has a lot of shoes.

  17. #42
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    NU=alleys=NU

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    Granted, that is an ugly house. Yet many New Urban neighborhoods do have front-loading garages and driveways to the street. They impose design controls to ensure that homes like that one are not permitted. Again, alleys are just one technique. They may be appropriate in one place but not others. Not everything built needs to look like a turn-of-the-20th-century city neighborhood. [/QUOTE

    Once again, we need to remember that alleys are not solely a component of New Urbanist developments. "New Urbanism" is a simple marketing ploy by DPZ.

    I hope that people do not think that alleys must be in all new developments or that we must retrofit suburbia or anywhere else. Alleys are a sophistcated component of urban design. If a developer is going to do a high density development (8+ units per acre) they should defintely consider utliizing alleys. Especially for single-family development. At these densities, the number of curb cuts would become excessive.

    In terms of historical context, I think it was more a function of the level of transportation technology which dictated the use of alleys. We were a much less mobile society 80+ years ago, so if you wanted to be able to maximize the utility of your property, alleys give you access to two instead of one sides, particularly for block interior lots, and one needed to be as close as to the train lines or the street cars.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

    You know...for kids.

  18. #43
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Re: NU=alleys=NU

    Mendelman,

    Just a few things about your post.

    ...alleys are a sophistcated component of urban design...


    How are they sophisticated? And even if they really are sophisticated, who cares? What function do they serve in the 21st century? Don't get me wrong, I love old neighborhoods with alleys - I'm just playing Devil's Advocate. Saying that they are sophisticated does not make them sophisticated.


    If a developer is going to do a high density development (8+ units per acre) they should defintely consider utliizing alleys. Especially for single-family development. At these densities, the number of curb cuts would become excessive.


    Please, define "excessive." Perhaps eight units of single-family detached homes to the acre is excessive and compromises the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the local community. Get rid of the density and you eliminate the "excessive" curb cuts.


    We were a much less mobile society 80+ years ago, so if you wanted to be able to maximize the utility of your property, alleys give you access to two instead of one sides, particularly for block interior lots, and one needed to be as close as to the train lines or the street cars.
    ...which is why alleys in the 21st century are anachronistic. How many subdivisions built in the last 50 years have train lines going down their streets? Not too many, right? Probably just a few.

  19. #44
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Originally posted by Alan
    Sure. But how often are the cars backing out of and pulling into the driveways? If it's a neighborhood full of single-family homes, then the queing of automobiles through the driveways and into the streets is minimal. As long as there are sidewalks, then pedestrians will have no trouble moving past all the driveways. The amount of auto traffic through a neighborhood is minimal and the sidewalk provides a safe and comfortable realm away from the street. This can be achieved without a dependence on alleyways.
    Are you saying alleyways are appropriate in farm country?

    I've seen plenty of subdivisions sprout up with houses on quarter-acre lots and each driveway has 3 or 4 cars in it. On the collector roads within the subdivision the traffic is astounding for the number of households in it. The speed is even worse. The back and forth traffic is particularly accute during the summer in neighborhoods with a lot of teenagers.

    People without small children don't normally walk around subdivisions. They need a reason. If primary uses aren't located within a 5-10 minute walking range of a household the sidewalks are not going to get used. They're also not going to be used if the sidewalk is lined with garage doors and/or the trip to the store or doctor's office requires crossing some busy arterial not designed with the pedestrian in mind.

    Every suburban house in north america was built in farm country.

  20. #45
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Originally posted by jresta
    I've seen plenty of subdivisions sprout up with houses on quarter-acre lots and each driveway has 3 or 4 cars in it. On the collector roads within the subdivision the traffic is astounding for the number of households in it. The speed is even worse. The back and forth traffic is particularly accute during the summer in neighborhoods with a lot of teenagers.

    People without small children don't normally walk around subdivisions. They need a reason. If primary uses aren't located within a 5-10 minute walking range of a household the sidewalks are not going to get used. They're also not going to be used if the sidewalk is lined with garage doors and/or the trip to the store or doctor's office requires crossing some busy arterial not designed with the pedestrian in mind.

    Every suburban house in north america was built in farm country.
    Ummm... okay. But we're talking about alleys. Do you have anything to say about them?

  21. #46
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    His point is, I think, that you need density to reduce auto-dependence, and you often need alleys to make such density work.

  22. #47
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Originally posted by jordanb
    His point is, I think, that you need density to reduce auto-dependence, and you often need alleys to make such density work.
    ...or parking garages, either above or under ground.

    But what about those towers in major cities that house all those people? Where are the alleys for those structures? If we're talking about achieving density with single-family detached homes, then sure, alleys can help get to density. But that seems inefficient to me. How about an eight-story structure with first floor commerical and offices and the remaining seven floors be either apartments or condos, all located next to a transit line? That's probably a better wat to get to density.

    Some one please tell me how alleys are relevant to the design of a detached single-family home subdivision in the 21st century. I feel they are anachronistic, yet I would like to be shown otherwise.

  23. #48
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    to Alan

    I live in a four-story mixed use apartment building. We have an alley which bisects our block and services the rear of almost all properties on the block. It works great for the temporary storage of trash particularly.

    In terms of large mixed-use, muti-story buildings, such as present in Chicago's Loop, they are serviced by alleys. The alleys are efficent for pickup/delivery of goods and trash removal. Since one ROW services the buildings on the block, the delivery and trash trucks will not need to circle a block to service each building. This can also be applied to the large apartment/condo buildings on the shoreline up and down Lake Michigan. The trash from that level of density would be horrid, if it were put on the curb. The results would be the streets of NYC on any given morning.

    As for the use of alleys for single-family developments above 8+ unit per acre, they need to be strongly considered because the curb cuts required would be a great imposition on the pedestrian (sidewalk) environment. At such denisty, one needs to start thinking more for greater separation of pedestrian and the car.

    Could you explain why you think alleys are anachronisms?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

    You know...for kids.

  24. #49
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Re: to Alan

    Originally posted by mendelman
    Could you explain why you think alleys are anachronisms?
    In detached single-family home neighborhoods that have attached garages and are at densities of no more than two dwellings per acre, they seem supefulous. The functions of alleys in this scenario can be replaced by putting trash to the curb and by parking the car in the garage, without forcing additional development costs to the developer. Further, excluding alleys in the development makes the job of the police force, firefighters, and trash trucks much easier.

    At higher densities I will freely admit that there may be benefits of the alley that go beyond "sophisticated" urban design. I am not against alleys per se, but this discussion has been all over the map and I'm trying to tease-out situations in which alleys may or may not be appropriate or cost-effective. The thread started with very little focus and I'm trying to explore how practical alleys really are. Again, I want to emphasize that I'm not against alleys - I just want this interesting discussion to go beyond its original broad scope and into territories that consider alleys and their surrounding contexts.

  25. #50
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Yeah,
    I suppose my start of this thread was open ended.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

    You know...for kids.

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