Step Into The Alley
by Matthew Blackett

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There is something unique and revealing about alleys. We meticulously manicure front lawns and keep our porch patios spotless. But journey to the back alleys, and you discover what's behind the façade, like seeing your partner in the morning for the first time.

Alleys are always portrayed as a place of ill repute, where muggers lurk, hookers do their tricks and rats rule the day. But a real-life inspection of Toronto's alleyways reveals a fantastic network that brings together neighbours, offers cyclists an opportunity to avoid the city's heavy traffic, and acts as Toronto's largest art gallery.

The Spacing staff challenged itself to find extensive routes of inter-connected alleys. We wanted an escape route from the road, as if the cars were gangsters chasing us through the innards of the city. The only rule was an alley exit could be no further than a quarter of a block to the next alley entrance.

The longest stretch we found was a 4.5-kilometre route, starting at Christie and Dupont and ending at Queen and Dufferin (it's downhill most of the way). The start and end of most alleys in Toronto is usually determined by railroad lines, which is exactly what stopped us from going any further north at Dupont or west at Dufferin.

Using this route, travelling on the road to another alley entrance is needed on only five occasions (see map, below). There are tricky areas such as south of Bloor at Montrose: at this point, take the bike path that leads you into Bickford Park. We suggest cutting across the grass at the south end of the park until you can enter the alley on the south side of Harbord.

Be careful at Shaw and Dundas: the entrance to the alley on the south side of Dundas is not easy to see beside the auto repair shop.

Inhale the warm smells of the bakery near Dovercourt, check out the giant raccoon painted on a garage side at Crawford, just north of Christie Pits. You can discover more about your community when you see what your neighbours are hiding out back. || contact || subscribe || in this issue || stores

(c) 2003 Toronto Public Space Committee