You may have been following the story of the Richmond residents living in Steveston that found out that the closed back lane in their back yards was going to be opened and become a functioning lane. When these properties were purchased, the easement for the City’s lane was clearly on the title, but was not being acted upon, allowing residents to use that space for their own green spaces. The City of Richmond indicated that the back lanes would only be constructed when lane dedication and associated access were required for sewer or other such infrastructure replacement.
As reported in the Richmond News, Richmond has 45 kilometers of open and unopened lanes. Approximately 85 per cent of the lanes are constructed across the city, although in Steveston only 40 per cent are open and functioning. The City has easements of about ten feet on the back of properties, and when the lanes are constructed the actual lane width is about twenty feet.
Back lanes are an unusual feature in Metro Vancouver municipalities and are well-loved by movie sets. They were originally designed to be service lanes for services such as garbage removal. In the City of Vancouver lane “improvements” mean paving over the back lane provided which sustainably seems at odds for reducing off gassing, permeability and speed, and does contribute to flooding of adjoining properties. It was Sharole Tylor in Mountainview Neighbourhood in Vancouver that convinced the City of Vancouver to try something different other than the so-called improvement of the “paved lane”. By installing two concrete driving strips, using a permeable geoblock with structural soil, engineer David Desrochers created a new demonstration of a new lane that also became a popular public space useable in a community that was park deficient. As the National Post reports, even though three of these demonstration “country” lanes were installed, they were never costed out correctly for their sustainable benefits, and were dismissed by the then new Vision civic leadership in favour of more “green” paving techniques.
But perhaps the timing of the rebirth of a sustainable country lane is more appropriate now with clear concerns about how to create usable parklike space, to manage flooding, and off gassing, and to encourage more sustainable practices. The City of Richmond perhaps learning from the City of Vancouver’s lack of sustainable followup is offering several options for the new laneway, including paving, the use of green filtration swales, or a country lane. There are open houses at the Steveston Community Centre on January 10 and January 17 and more information that will be available on the LetsTalkRichmond.ca site in early January.
There is also an old YouTube Video of the first Country Lane in Vancouver that can be viewed at this link.