The importance of collecting stories of our laneways.

What is the role of laneways when it comes to telling the story of our city and its diverse neighborhoods? How can we imagine and create a future for these particular pockets of Toronto?  

Our memories and thoughts are closely tied to the different spaces we interact with in our everyday lives. The distinct routes and paths we routinely take to get to different parts of the city become filled with stories and emotions bound to them.  Laneways are an intriguing part of our city and our individual mental maps, whether we acknowledge them or not. 

So what makes these laneways so unique? A gentle middle ground between sidewalks and main roads, with humble widths in a peripheral setting, some could say laneways are the underdog to the main street.  They are also a great example of a multi-use space and a vital component of the city’s transportation infrastructure.  The system of smaller routes removed from busy streets offers the chance to go from neighborhood to neighborhood only using back roads. And with their particular location, laneways offer different and unconventional views of Toronto’s complex cityscape. A laneway gives the chance to look at architectural elements from a different angle than the ones showcased on the street, giving an alternative view of a particular neighborhood. This different view creates different impressions, and with that comes a different story.

For some of us, the laneway behind our house is the place we learned how to ride a bike, catch a basketball or even had our first kiss. I will always remember the place where my training wheels first came off, and the importance of the laneway being there to support the two remaining wheels. It is in those moments that we understand the importance of connecting with different places, and how laneways can fulfill that need. 

It can be argued that one of the best ways of understanding a part of the city is by walking through its laneways, discovering the paths and routes taken on a daily basis by the neighborhood’s residents. By having lived in a variety of neighborhoods across the city myself, I have gotten the chance to interact with different alleyways and recognize how their particularities and oddities give them a uniqueness that needs to be cherished, protected, and lauded.

An laneway is not only the space between A to B, it is a place where a backyard garden overflows, where a yarn bomb quietly makes its mark on a light pole, where a ball is kicked around with less fear of being stopped by car traffic. The laneway is where our much-extolled neighborhoods come together, providing unpretentious room for culture to come to life.

Sharing stories about places gives us a better understanding of what these places mean to us, thus creating a sustained affinity for them. These laneways are filled with humble narratives, each of them a part of our collective history.

Have any interesting anecdotes about your neighborhood alleyway? Get in touch (at francis.nmay@gmail.com) !  There are plenty of stories to be told, with a great deal of tucked away places in this city to be cherished.

Francis MayComment