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Thread: Elements of Urban Design - Alleys

  1. #51
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Hey, no problem. Great topic! I'll lay off my "alleys are anachronistic" screed if some one else wants to take this discussion off into another direction.

  2. #52
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Originally posted by Alan
    Ummm... okay. But we're talking about alleys. Do you have anything to say about them?
    actually, you weren't talking about alleys.

    but since you decided you are now, i'll throw in my two cents.

    Alleys in single-use suburban areas are pointless.

    In any mixed use development they're necessary whether it's a suburban or urban environment. They're necessary to foster a pedestrian environment, for deliveries, and for trash collection.

    The town i used to live in had a main st. that stretched for 6 blocks. An alley used to run behind the entire length of the commercial strip but over the last 80 years it had been encroached upon from both sides. With the exception of a two block stretch on the north side of the Avenue it's mostly useless now. Trash collection is now on the main drag and all deliveries are in and out of the front doors of all of these businesses. Trucks are always double-parked. Loading ramps and rollers stretch across the sidewalk. It's a serious mess.
    Any new development should include alleys to avoid these problems.

    Depending on the density of the residential component they may or may not be necessary or even cost effective. Such low-density developments are generally few and far between around here.

  3. #53
    Cyburbian Runner's avatar
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    Originally posted by jresta
    Alleys in single-use suburban areas are pointless...
    ...unless you prefer a pedestrian friendly walkable community.

  4. #54
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I am wondering why some of the defenders of alleys are so adamant that no other form of development can be a pedestrian-friendly, clean, safe, and desirable neighborhood. I do not think anyone here has said that alleys should not be constructed anymore, but rather that dense neighborhoods with alleys are but one of a number of ways to build communities.

    I have known many -- a Chicago neighborhood of two-flats and alleys, an older single-family subdivision, large low-rise suburban apartment complexes, a small town, and the rural countryside. All of these work in their own way. All of these have design features that address the same issues in alternative ways. All of these are appropriate in some conexts, but not in others.

  5. #55
    Cyburbian
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    single-use suburban area / pedestrian friendly walkable community

    Aren't these oxymorons?

  6. #56
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Originally posted by Michael Stumpf
    All of these have design features that address the same issues in alternative ways. All of these are appropriate in some conexts, but not in others...
    Ditto.

  7. #57
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    the alley's are known solution to avoiding front-loading driveways...and provide rear loading driveways!

    The american public, and builders, and government officials need to decide what is more deserable in the residential strucutre... houses with a front cars go into? or a house with a front people go into? Alleys do provide the option to store your car 'appliance' in the back yard with the lawnmower, garden tools, and basketball.

    Alleys in commercial areas serve exactly the same purpose as loading and service areas in strip centers, behind grocery stores, etc serve. loading and unloading and a place to hide the nasties. Of course, the alley is publicly owned and probably providing the community more control over its usage, double-parking, etc.

    Alley's are good at what they do and should be considered in 21st century development.

    there's gaps here i need to fill in later.

  8. #58
    Snow removal in the rear lanes is the big issue around here.....

  9. #59
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    alleys are a tool, but not a requirement

    Personally, I love alleys. I'm a big fan of side-load alleys since they usually allow for a little more backyard and provide pedestrians shortcuts to adjacent blocks.

    I believe most of the principles of New Urbanism can be preserved while using front-load driveways. You can limit driveway width to one car-width until the driveway crosses the sidewalk. And I mean a real car-width, not an oversized 12-foot driveway! You don't get to hide the nasties as well, but a strong homeowners association can pressure residents not to have trash cans out any longer than necessary.

    There are some situations where alleys are impractical or unnecssary, but overall I think they are an important tool.

  10. #60
    Cyburbian Runner's avatar
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    Obviously not all front-loading garages are the same. The narrow (single car width) driveway with a garage behind the house or at least no closer to the street than the house itself can be acceptable. Alleys are just less subject to design abuse than allowing front loading. One bad example is snout houses.

    One anecdote: A while back I was driving my Dad through a new urbanist leaning development that had many things right including alleys. After driving around awhile I took a connecting street to show the difference to a Centex neighborhood that was going in next door. As we drove down one road I commented that he might notice a difference as now we were driving down a street oriented towards cars, full of driveways and garages. My Dad (who is development neutral as far as New Urbanism goes) commented back in complete seriousness "Oh, I though this was another alley"... So much for the curb appeal of that neighborhood!

  11. #61
    Cyburbian ilikefish0's avatar
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    Down here in NO, alleys are mainly a feature of the last areas of the city (outside new orleans east) to be built up. Many streets of the lakeview area (built since the 1920's, with many much more recent) have companion alleyways that access the rear of houses. These alleys are paved in gravel or are only sidewalks, and are one of the factors that make this one off the most desirable neighborhoods in New Orleans. These alleywayed neighborhood even escaped the "white flight" phenomenon. So, I would have to say that alleys do not raise crime, and in fact increase property values.

  12. #62
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    Backyard Alleys

    I am trying to gather old memories for a picture book about ALLEYS. Does anyone have time to share why alleys were originally made (they don't make them anymore in the new housing complexes); & some of the games that we used to play in the alleys & curbs by our homes; & any other memories that you or your parents have of alleys. God Bless Your Day! Thank you for even reading this!!!!!
    While we were growing up in the 60's we used the alleys to meet friends, kiss, smoke & pass a beer around! It was amazing how many garages were left open at night! Remember any marble games? Remember any activities back there?!!!!

  13. #63
         
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    Quote Originally posted by boiker
    The american public, and builders, and government officials need to decide what is more deserable in the residential strucutre... houses with a front cars go into? or a house with a front people go into?
    But the real problem is American obsession with the automobile. Simply designing alleys in neighborhoods will probably not reduce the amount of cars on the roads or the level of obsession.

    And trying to convince this country that cars can be bad...almost impossible (at least in the short run; the long run would take decades, I would imagine.)

    P.S. I agree with you, however, that it needs to be changed. Not only for aestethics, but for environmental and economic reasons. I just wish I had a magic wand or the ability to change mass amounts of people's attitudes.

  14. #64
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CuriousCat
    I am trying to gather old memories for a picture book about ALLEYS. Does anyone have time to share why alleys were originally made (they don't make them anymore in the new housing complexes); & some of the games that we used to play in the alleys & curbs by our homes; & any other memories that you or your parents have of alleys. God Bless Your Day! Thank you for even reading this!!!!!
    While we were growing up in the 60's we used the alleys to meet friends, kiss, smoke & pass a beer around! It was amazing how many garages were left open at night! Remember any marble games? Remember any activities back there?!!!!
    There is an article about the history of alleys in Manhattan that may give you some background in the purpose of alleys.

    There are some new subdivision in Washington State that are quite nearby Camano Island that incorporate alleys well into the subdivision design. The Homesteady Northwest development company has developed several communities with alleys in Lynden, WA, which I think are some of the nicest in Washington State. I think they have a website with all their locations.

    Here's an example of a recent subdivision by Homestead NW.


  15. #65
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ilikefish0
    Down here in NO, alleys are mainly a feature of the last areas of the city (outside new orleans east) to be built up.
    That's pretty interesting. I wonder how much the advent of zoning and building codes had to do with the development of alleys. It would be in the best interest of landowners building tenement slums to build the entire lot and not leave rear access, but I know that some of the earliest building codes required rear setbacks to allow for an airshaft behind the buildings. If the entire block were built with the same width air shaft (as defined by code), you'd end up with a passage-way behind all of the buildings!

  16. #66
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    Houston metro has almost no alleys, that's right, none. In stark contrast, an area that doesn't have alleys is quite rare in the Dallas - Fort Worth area. Back when the big suburban explosion took place, complete with garages on the front, even the smaller towns and cities that generally had far less money built or required alleys. As a result, most neighborhoods that were built around 1965 and later had no garages in front.

    As a matter of fact, my hometown, the City of Richardson, has just recently required that if anyone converts a front garage into a room, the driveway in front must be completely removed, as well as the curb and sidewalk reset. In addition, new codes were put in place that make it easier to convert a garage. Just a couple of months ago, many citizens were very pleased when the city council voted against a new "patio home" development in the realatively recently (about 15 years ago) annexed "panhandle" with a gratuitous use of zero lot lines that, while dense, was proposed to have no alleys. I guess that shows that we're pretty serious about our alleys down here.

    You can just ignore this if you want, seeing as I am discussing mainstream suburban areas, but it's interesting to know.

  17. #67
    Member Hipockethipy's avatar
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    I beleive the original purpose of "laneways" (as we call them here) was for the collection of "night soil" before the days of universal sewerage reticulation...keep the horse-drawn "night soil" carts off the street, with "outhouses" located out the back to keep the smells concentrated. This might also explain the code requirment of maintaining airflow noted in a previous post.

  18. #68
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    Backyard Alleys

    Wow, Lynden right in our own backyard. I haven't seen many "new" alleys, so it would be nice to take a Sunday drive & check them out! (See if there are any kids in the alleys playing dice!) Thanks for all the information!!!
    And it was interesting to note that one reason that they came into existence is to ward off the smell of the outhouses!!!! Goodness I'm glad I don't live back in that century!

  19. #69
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    Well! Thats quite a stimulating debate on the 'Alleys'.
    Out here the only alleys i knew were in New Delhi( where my grandparents built their house and lived about fifty years ago.
    These were basically for services( water and Sewerage).
    Now people use them as entry for maids, parking for the third or the fourth car, stray cases of home based businesess like bakeries etc and the civic authorities keep digging them up now and then for repair or whatever.Those alleys are about 15' wide or so.

    AT present, the house I live in and the layout( subdivision) I am part of had originally a 6' alley only for services. This was used for the water supply lines.
    Slowly some houses encroached them. Some had justifiable reasons that the very narrow alley would litter up, it could lead to increased threat of thefts, it would be 'no- mans land'.

    In India the average soild waste generated is about half a kilo per person per day. Therefore garbage removal or temporary storage in the front is not such an issue at all.

    YEs alleys in strip commercial are really useful for loading unloading but in modern urban residential projects where the land is so expensive these systems are not feasible.

    Out here we have popular density of 12 lots per acre.( detached housing)
    In such situations all infrastructure lines run in the front, there's no garage( only a car porch) and the fire safety guys have no problems with all this.

    I agree with Wanigas that its important to understand the historical reasons for the alleys and think hard why we need them now.

    Making alleys purely for urban design means that you guys have very rich communities.

    I wish I could propose them here too!!

  20. #70
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Alleys: Leftovers of Atlanta's urban past find a new future

    Alleys are among the more evocative concepts of urban life, and they are experiencing a mini-revival in old and new communities in metro Atlanta.

    The narrow streets can conjure thoughts of calm pathways. Friends chatting across fences. Kids dashing down a shortcut to the corner store.

    Jill Strickland and husband Keith Luse use the alley behind her Grant Park house for easy access to the home's back yard. Luse also parks his extra car in the area

    The M West townhouse development west of the Georgia Tech campus is inspired by British alleys, called mews.

    Alleys also can be seen as brutish. Stained streets frequented by trash trucks. Secluded corridors where thugs lurk.

    Regardless of the image they suggest, alleys are supposed to brighten the face of a community by providing a place to conceal the unsightly stuff people use.

    Full article:
    http://www.ajc.com/news/content/metro/0504/03alley.html

  21. #71

    Physical Design of Alleys - Montreal

    What the heck, let's do some self-promotion. I've just finished up my thesis on the physical design of alleys and their contribution to defensible space and manitenance, and the role alleys play in both older and new residential neighbourhoods. I surveyed in some detail well over 200 alleys in inner-city Montreal and mapped it all out on a GIS, and looked for correlations between physical conditions and characteristics of the alley. I then used the knowledge generated from the exercise to develop guidelines for physical design and regulatory intervention in alleys. If this sounds like an interesting study to you, feel free to have a look at

    http://www.syldavia.net/Files/David%...al%20Draft.pdf

    Research is pointless if noone ever sees it, after all. I'm turning it into a paper so feedback and discussion is always appreciated.

    Cheers!

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