Laneways, like most outdoor public spaces in Canada, are most enjoyed during seasons other than winter. Activities are limited in the winter – snow and slush is a nuisance, ice a danger and the cold a deterrent to spending more time outside than required. And given the length of Toronto's typical winters, the period in which laneways can be used to their potential is significantly shorter than in cities with warmer climates such as Sydney or Melbourne.
This is true when applied to an event such as a Laneway Crawl – its success is greatly dependent on nice weather. Pleasant weather brings people out in numbers and allows them to comfortably mill about and enjoy the multitude of activities on offer. The same is true for an impromptu laneway street hockey game or a neighbourhood barbeque. Nice weather accommodates flexible and spontaneous use of public spaces.
It is no coincidence that most photographs of laneways are taken in sunny, warmer conditions. Spaces look brighter, more welcoming and more promising. Looking at such a photo, one can imagine how a revitalized laneway may look. Wintertime photos often tend to communicate the opposite – the presence of snow is an obstacle and slush makes the scene dirtier and less appealing to people.
However, winter laneways do not necessarily become dormant, desolate spaces once autumn is over. People are still seen walking through laneways. Laneways, as alternatives to main streets, are shortcuts people can use to get to their destinations quicker, a convenience that is definitely welcome in the winter. Strolling through laneways in the wintertime and taking in the murals and graffiti is a unique aesthetic experience in its own right. The blanketing whiteness of snow makes the colours in these artworks pop in a different way than in the summer and gives vibrancy to what may otherwise be a dreary scene.
Do you enjoy laneways in the winter? Know any good winter laneway activities? Let us know @lanewayproject on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. #winterlaneways #lovethelanways
Photos and Essay by FIllip Filipovic