By Garlynn Woodsong | CNA Board Member, SW1 CNA LUTC Chair
Alleys are helping Concordia neighbors engage in active transportation while socially distancing during this time of quarantine in the age of COVID-19.
For the section of the neighborhood west of 33rd Avenue, alleys double the number of north-south pedestrian connections on each block.
For neighbors – with dogs, other family members and/or cohabitants, or out walking solo – a new social custom has developed to look down a block for oncoming pedestrians and consider entering if seeing none, or to continue on otherwise.
When walking along east-west streets to the west of 33rd in Concordia, however, continuing on only means walking the depth of a standard lot in the neighborhood, or roughly 100 feet, before an alley is encountered.
At alleys, the diagnosis is a bit more complex. It’s not just a matter of oncoming traffic, there are also passability/blockage assessments that must be performed quickly.
Some of these assessments can be conducted visually, from the alley entrance. Others require entering the alley to continue the assessment beyond visual barriers, most likely overgrown vegetation.
There are certain pattern areas within the neighborhood as a whole, where there are clusters of alleys that share a certain look and type.
In general, there are three classes of alleys in Concordia:
- Paved alleys with concrete or sometimes asphalt providing a driving surface that doubles as a vegetation barrier, physically preventing the alley from becoming quickly overgrown each spring
- Gravel alleys that were, at one point, cleared, graded, graveled and that continue to be used to provide vehicle access to the rear of – at least some of – the properties they serve
- Overgrown alleys – maybe at some point in the distant past, were gravel alleys – that, over the years, neglect has allowed the vegetation to take over, with enormous expanses of thorny blackberry patches, impassable to all but the most intrepid, machete-armed pedestrian
I believe our challenge should be to turn all of the overgrown alleys in Concordia into gravel alleys – at least to the width of a pedestrian path – to strengthen the resilience of our neighborhood in providing a diversity of options for folks to walk and maintain social distancing whenever the need arises.
For all of us who live on alley frontages, however, let us please plant food for pollinators: wild flower mixes where appropriate, flowering vines to grow along fence-lines, flowering shrubs in the little nooks that are formed along the edges of the alleys from place to place.
Our city provides a wealth of biodiversity to support pollinators. Yet they still face threats, from the application on plants of chemical pesticides and fertilizers to plants death by highway.
Our alleys provide an opportunity to provide more food for pollinators and habitat for humans. Let’s celebrate them!
Garlynn Woodsong lives on 29th Avenue, serves on the CNA board and is an avid bicyclist. He also is a dad who is passionate about the city his son will inherit. He is the planning + development partner with Cascadia Partners LLC, a local urban planning firm. Contact him at LandUse@ConcordiaPDX.org.