Regular commenter MD has some good observations following up on this post – “Transforming Laneways.”
This reminds me of the gardens at First and Fir on the former CPR right-of-way that started with one planting bed built on a postage stamp piece of derelict land and mostly funded by one aspiring gardener who had to pull the wisdom teeth of the board members of the adjacent co-op to cover a part of the cost of materials. That one bed, bursting with flowers, brought many thanks and appreciative comments from the condo-dwelling neighbours.
Back then the CPR still ran one train a day to Molson’s, and the engineers and brakemen always greeted the gardener, so unlike the more recent PR shenanigans pulled by the CPR further up the tracks deeper into Creme territory where gardens were demolished in front of the cameras as a land negotiating tactic with the city. The lone gardener moved up the hill in the late 90s but, after a few years of neglect, another co-op member resurrected the idea and made it into a showpiece that inspired a small army of gardeners to help from various nearby buildings.
Chris articulated the potential of lanes, which is vast compared to their standard utilitarian use today. I hope the city can recognize the volunteer effort of residents and follow up any policy initiative on lanes with a small program not unlike Green Streets that allows citizens some flexibility. You can do a lot in even just a 0.6m setback.
There was a lane redesign program out there at one time but I understand some of the design techniques failed, such as permeable paving and infiltration channels which quickly plugged up. Cost was also a factor. (See more here on “The Country Lane in the City.”)
I suggest the program should be given a new life but without experimentation that is at risk of failure. Go with the tried and true, like solid paving with cobbles and setts or even cheaper unit pavers used in channels, and rated for garbage truck weights. All it takes is imagination and the ability to learn from experience.
[Plus, check out this issue of the old Price Tags as pdf file: “The Lane Issue,” based on an essay by Lisa Brideau.]