Minneapolis is reviewing a proposal to bar people from alleys unless they live on the block:
The proposal would prohibit anyone from walking in an alley who doesn't live on that block or who isn't a guest of someone who does. Police, paramedics and firefighters would be exempt, as would garbage haulers, meter readers, code inspectors and others whose jobs take them there....
"I see so much crime occurring in the alleys. It's a quick getaway," said Minneapolis police officer Mike Killebrew.
"If you don't live there on that block there's no reason to be in the alley," said Killebrew, who proposed the ordinance to the city attorney. ...
Any move to make walking in alleys illegal is likely to anger some people.
On a sun-rich Friday afternoon, Gordon Anderson walked down the paved alley on the 3400 block of Lyndale Avenue S. He said he has lived on the block for 20 years and that everyone in the neighborhood walks down alleys.
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," he said. "The whole country seems to be going to the Soviet Union, I'll tell you that."
Mr. Anderson would be allowed to walk down his own alley under the proposed ordinance, just not the one on the next block over.
People walk down our alley all the time, mostly people I don't recognize. Lots of teenagers, lots of kids wearing school backpacks. And there are others I don't see but who leave their traces: graffiti speckles the garage doors year round. Sometimes someone takes a leak against a garage (I apologize if you think that's crude, but really, if you pee on someone's garage doesn't it deserve a crude term?) There's also a couple of regulars who pick cans out of recycling bins (technically illegal but frankly, it doesn't bother me).
When I was in grade school, I regularly walked down the alley to get home from the school bus stop. The alley seemed much more interesting, to a kid, than the sidewalks. There was a lot of gravel to kick, for one thing, and a few walls to walk on, and you could see into the neighbors' back yards and talk to their dogs through the Cyclone fence. And you could pick mulberries in the weedy patch. I particularly remember a gap in the bushes that led to a great secret hiding spot behind somebody's woodpile. It was shaded by a canopy of branches and sheltered on three sides by foliage, on the fourth by the stack of logs (which nobody, apparently, ever burned). I wonder if that spot is still there and if kids still hide in it. Almost every time I'm back in Ohio I am tempted to drive down that alley and peek through the gap in the bushes. I'd probably get arrested, though.
Our block was triangular, so the alley was winding and branched. Compare that to the alleys in Minneapolis, which run straight north and south, each one bisecting a block. Almost everyone has a fence --- a tall one --- so there's nothing to see except fences, garage doors, and garbage cans. Since the alley is straight and parallel to the streets, there's not much reason to walk down the alley. It's almost never a shortcut. I can understand why kids like it, and the can-pickers, but why do so many teenagers and adults prefer the alley to the sidewalk?