Downtown Alleys

In my current story Unfinished Business, a critical scene unfolds in a Vancouver back alley just like this photo. Unappealing, dingy and downright scary.

Wikipedia describes an alley as a narrow lane, path or passageway, often reserved for pedestrians and usually running between or behind buildings. Because of geography, stairs are often a feature.

Many alleys have historic context and in Europe and other parts of the world, are remnants of medieval roadways. There are far too many interesting alleys and lanes all over the world to mention here, so I’ll stick to British Columbia as so far, it’s the inspiration for all my stories.

image of Vancouver's pink alley

Picture the alley from my story looking like this!

Most cities have gritty areas and Vancouver has plenty. Hollywood has made the most of them. Websites and Facebook pages devoted to alleys abound. There’s even a K-pop girl group video shot in this revitalized pink alley. According to social media though, it has recently reclaimed much of its dingy aura.

Photo by Sergio Rios on Unsplash

On Vancouver Island, downtown Victoria is home to several alleys, Fan Tan Alley being the most famous. The gambling culture of Victoria’s historic Chinatown made it the site of numerous police raids. The alley hid gambling dens and opium factories. Across the street is Dragon Alley, a former rooming house. Now they both house shops, galleries and restaurants. In the movie Bird on a Wire, Mel Gibson rides a motorbike down Fan Tan alley.

Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Waddington Alley links two downtown Victoria thoroughfares near the harbour. Hauntingly quiet, it’s still paved with wood blocks. Constructed during the 1858 gold rush, it led to a livery stable, bakery, butcher and a dance hall. It doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to picture yourself back among the hustle and bustle of downtown Victoria when it was still a tent city and packed with miners.

Projects world wide aim to make alleys and lanes safe and interesting enough to draw people. Take a look!

Next time you visit a city, even your own, take a detour or a walking tour and explore an alley or two. Think of all the stories that live in those spaces!

Here are some alleys and lanes to dream about visiting.

Colorful plant lined lane in Cinque Terre, Italy
Colorful plant lined lane in Cinque Terre, Italy
a residential alley in Kyoto. Photo by Jisu Han on Unsplash