An alley or alleyway is a narrow lane found in urban areas, often for pedestrians only, which usually runs between or behind buildings. In older cities and towns in Europe, alleys are often what is left of a medieval street network, or a right of way or ancient footpath in an urban setting. In older urban development, alleys were built to allow for deliveries such as coal to the rear of houses. Alleys may be paved, or simply dirt tracks. A blind alley has no outlet at one end and is thus a cul-de-sac.
Many modern urban developments do not incorporate alleys, but some may provide a service road to allow for waste collection, or rear access for fire engines and parking. Andrés Duany, American architect and urban planner, has long espoused the use of alleys as leading to a better integration of automobile and foot traffic in a neighborhood.
In the United States alleys exist in both older commercial and residential areas, for both service purposes and automobile access. In residential areas, primarily those built before 1950, alleys provide rear access to property where a garage was located, or where waste could be collected by service vehicles. A benefit of this was the location of these activities to the rear, less public side of a dwelling. Such alleys are typically roughly paved, but some may be dirt. By 1950 they had largely disappeared from development plans for new homes.
Chicago, Illinois has about 1,900 miles (3,100 km) of alleyways. In 2007, the Chicago Department of Transportation started converting conventional alleys which were made out of asphalt, into so called Green Alleys. This program, called the Green Alley Program, is supposed to enable easier water runoff, as the alleyways in Chicago are not connected to the sewer system. With this program, the water will be able to seep through semipermeable concrete or asphalt in which a colony of fungi and bacteria will establish itself. The bacteria will help breakup oils before the water is absorbed into the ground. The lighter color of the pavement will also reflect more light, making the area next to the alley cooler.
New York City
New York City's Manhattan is unusual in that it has very few alleys, since the Commissioner's Plan of 1811 did not include rear service alleys when it created Manhattan's grid. The exclusion of alleys has been criticized as a flaw in the plan, since services such as garbage pickup cannot be provided out of sight of the public, although other commentators feel that the lack of alleys is a benefit to the quality of life of the city.
- In England there are numerous words used locally to describe alleys that are narrow pavements between or behind buildings.
- Jennel, which may be spelt gennel or ginnel, is common in Manchester, Lancashire, Sheffield, Leeds and other parts of Yorkshire. It is also used in Oldham. In some cases, "ginnel" may be used to describe a covered or roofed passage, as distinct from an open alley.
- Twitten is a Sussex dialect word, used in both East and West Sussex, for a path or alleyway. It is still in official use in some towns including Lewes, Brighton and Cuckfield.
- In Nottinghamshire, north-west Essex and east Hertfordshire, twichell is common.
- In Liverpool the term entry, jigger or snicket is more common. "Entry" is also used in some parts of Lancashire, Manchester, though not in South Manchester. This usually refers to a walkway between two adjoining terraced houses, which leads from the street to the rear yard or garden.
- The word jitty or gitties is often found in Derbyshire and Leicestershire and gulley is a term used in the Black Country..
- In north-east England they can be called chares, or in Whitby, "ghauts", and in Plymouth, opes.
- In Shropshire (especially Shrewsbury) they are called shuts.
- Other terms in use are cuttings, 8-foots, 10-foots (in Scunthorpe and Hull), and snicket.
- In York, local author Mark W. Jones devised the word snickelway in 1983 as a portmanteau of the words snicket, ginnel and alleyway. Although the word is a neologism, it quickly became part of the local vocabulary, and has even been used in official council documents, for example when giving notice of temporary footpath closures.
Scotland and Northern Ireland
- In Scotland and Northern Ireland the Scots terms close, wynd, pend and vennel are general in most towns and cities. The term close has an unvoiced "s" as in sad. The Scottish author Ian Rankin's novel Fleshmarket Close was retitled Fleshmarket Alley for the American market.
- In Australia and Canada the terms lane, laneway, right-of-way and serviceway are also used.
- In some parts of the United States and Canada, alleys are sometimes known as rear lanes or back lanes because they are at the back of buildings. "Mews" is also used for some alleys or small streets in Manhattan.
- In the Netherlands the equivalent term is steeg. Cities such as Amsterdam have many stegen running between the major streets, roughly parallel to each other but not at right angles to the streets. See .
- In Belgium the equivalent term is gang (Dutch) or impasse (French). Brussels had over 100 gangen/impasses, built to provide pedestrian access to cheap housing in the middle of blocks of buildings. Since 1858, many have now been demolished as part of slum-clearance programmes, but about 70 still exist.
- In India the equivalent term is Gali which were prevalent during Moghul Period (1526 C.E. to 1700 C.E.)
- In Singapore, there are many alleys in Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats. Those are often brick roads, have many humps and very few traffic signs and road markings.
"Alley" is of French origin, meaning "a way to go", and has been adapted in English as above. It is also used in parts of Europe such as Croatia and Serbia as a name for a boulevard, an avenue or a parkway (such as Bologna Alley in Zagreb). The Swedish word "allé" and the German word "Allee" refers to any type of road lined with trees (such as Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin). Czech and some other Slavic languages use the term "ulička" instead, a diminutive form of "ulice", the word for street.
- In typography, "alley" is also used to refer to the gap between two columns of text.
- A bowling alley is a building where the game of bowling is played.
- Great Yarmouth Row Houses
- Hutong - alley dwellings of Beijing
- Golden Gai, a cluster of alleyways and popular nightlife district in Shinjuku, Tokyo
- Rights of way in England and Wales
- Rights of way in Scotland
- Link text, Using alleys to fight heat, water runoff, Chicago Suntimes.
- Conscious Choice
- Gray, Christopher. "Streetscapes: Are Manhattan's Right Angles Wrong?" New York Times (23 October 2005)
- 'Putting SY on the wordmap', BBC, 22 August 2005
- Where I live:Sussex dialect words
- Jones, Mark W. A Walk Around the Snickelways of York
- "Rights-of-Way or Laneways in Established Areas- Guidelines" (pdf). Planning Bulletin No 33. Western Australian Planning Commission. July 1999. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
- Impasses de Bruxelles, Lucia Gaiardo, Région de Bruxelles-Capitale-Ville de Bruxelles, 2000
- "slovnik.seznam.cz Translation of "ulička"". Retrieved 18 February 2010.
- Typographical definition of "Alley"
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- Media related to Alleys at Wikimedia Commons