Montreal's clean, green alleyways

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The Canadian city of Montreal has hit on an innovative way of cleaning up the ugly concrete alleyways which run through neighbourhoods. The project’s called Ruelle Verte, or green alleyways, and it transforms soulless, trash-filled thoroughfares into green, ecological and vibrant spaces where residents gather to chat, play or party.

More than 350 green alleys - totalling more than 69 kilometres - exist throughout the city’s 19 boroughs, with waiting lists for the $5,600 of funding. The success of a green alley relies heavily on those involved in it. The borough and other organisations help to create it, but it’s then the responsibility of residents to maintain it. Those residents must first form a committee and garner support from their neighbours to prove they are serious about the project, before applying for funding.

 The wall of one of the green alleyways in Montreal. Photo credit - Regroupement des éco-quartiers. 

The wall of one of the green alleyways in Montreal. Photo credit - Regroupement des éco-quartiers. 

City councillors give priority to areas known as urban heat islands, where temperatures are five to ten degrees higher than the surrounding area. By removing asphalt and planting trees temperatures are lowered. Green alleyways also purify the air, improve soil quality and encourage biodiversity. And, they say, they also make better use of public spaces by creating a sense of community, belonging and safety.

 There are more than 350 green alleyways in Montreal already.  Photo credit - Regroupement des éco-quartiers. 

There are more than 350 green alleyways in Montreal already.  Photo credit - Regroupement des éco-quartiers. 

Eco-Quartier (eco-neighbourhoods) is a municipal programme that focuses on environmental action and education. It looks after the alleyway project by providing overall supervision, manpower and financial assistance.

 The green alleyways are for residents to meet, play and party.  Photo credit - Regroupement des éco-quartiers. 

The green alleyways are for residents to meet, play and party.  Photo credit - Regroupement des éco-quartiers. 

The project’s been so successful the alleyways are now recognised as a tourist attraction, with bike tours through them. And the city incorporates these back routes into events, from Restaurant Weeks that include alleyway pop-ups, to those that can be used for sledding and ice skating.