Alley Garbage Truck Math
August 30, 2015

I advocate building places to the scale of people. The biggest influencer of scale is street size. A vast majority of streets (75% or more) should be built to the scale of humans - they should feel welcoming, cosy, intimate, and very natural;

Unfortunately virtually all the streets in the United States, even in the most urban places, tend to be hypertrophic and extremely oversized;

Not only do these ultra wide streets feel less humane, but they cost more to build, gives you less street frontage to build on, and gives you dramatically less building space and tax revenue to support it all. Wide streets and boulevards are important, but they should consist of less than 25% of your streets.

Paris is famous for boulevards, and many cities try to imitate Paris with their own grand boulevards.

Boulevards only make up a tiny fraction of the streets in Paris. This is more typical scaled street.

Fortunately for us, as we try our best to humanize the existing cities in the United States there is a lot of low-hanging fruit already there for the taking; alleys.

An alley in Hoboken, NJ. This could be transformed into a perfectly proportioned street.

Many cities have already had success transforming their alleys (laneways) into narrow streets for people.

Melbourne is the poster child for laneway revitalization.

People have asked me if we turn our alleys, that are currently used for garbage pickup, into narrow streets for people - what are we supposed to do with all of our garbage? I have two responses to this.

1) Not every alley has to used for al fresco dining. Making your alleys more warm and inviting does not have to stop garbage trucks from fitting through when needed. When the garbage truck needs to come through, people simple stand to the side, but otherwise go about business as usual.

Garbage trucks can still fit through. No problem.

2) Even if you did want to fill your alleys with tables, chairs, and signs like Melbourne does and you still want to use them to garbage pickup, you can simply do the math. Let's say the garbage truck comes through twice a week, and the sanitation department gives you a 2 hour window on those days for when the alley needs to be cleared of tables and chairs so that the garbage truck can fit through. That works out to be 4 hours a week. One week has 168 hours, subtract those 4 hours and you are left with 164 hours a week when you are free to set up your tables and chairs. The practical implications could be that your laneway cafes do not serve an al fresco breakfast on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It is not the end of the world, and you have a pleasant outdoor dining environment the other 97.6% of the week.