Alleys are no longer just for cars, delivery vans and walking dogs. A surge of interest in reclaiming underused urban spaces has been transforming bleak alleyways around Montreal neighbourhoods for the last decade. These underused spaces have blossomed into public gardens, places for celebrations, and given children additional room to play.
Adding to the hundreds of Montreal alleys that have already been revamped, the borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie announced in February that five new “active alleys” will be implemented in the spring. With the aim to encourage physical and leisure activities — particularly among children — these will complement the five similar-type alleys that were created in 2021.
Active and green alleys
Active alleys are complementary to green alleys, where local residents coordinate with city or other partners to increase biodiversity and beautification. In 2021, nearly 700 square metres of asphalt were replaced with plants in eight green alleys throughout Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie. Going even further, active alleys promote outdoor free play and help develop leisure and physical activity without having to travel far from home.
Vehicles are still permitted, entrances to residences remain accessible, and private parking spaces are maintained. Signage and surface markings are interspersed with playhouses, scooters, and skateboards. For children’s safety, speed bumps and traffic cones are incorporated and a code of conduct governs free play to ensure harmonious cohabitation and reduce risk.
François Limoges, the mayor of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, said in a press release that the active alleys will be lively, green, and safe, and will contribute ecologically and improve the quality of life in the neighbourhood. These projects are carried by citizens as part of the as part of the Faites comme chez vous project in collaboration with Nature-Action Québec. The five alleys selected for transformation in 2022 will be announced later in the spring.
Not just for summer
Alleys can even be accessible year-round, like in the South-West Borough where a committee in the Saint-Paul–Émard district created a winter wonderland with a mini ice rink, slide, snow fort, and a small forest decorated with recycled Christmas trees. And in Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension, the borough allowed citizens to create small skating rinks within the borough’s unplowed alleys.
To promote outdoor play in your neighbourhood alleys, galvanize like-minded neighbours and share a vision with your municipality. To learn more about green alleys, visit ruellesvertesdemontreal.ca and find out more about active alleys at Faitescommechezvous.org where they share tips and FAQs on how to get started.