Global Street Design Guide

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Table of Contents

Global Street Design Guide

Case Study: Laneways of Melbourne, Australia

Location: Melbourne City Center; Melbourne, Australia
Population: 4.4 million
Extent: Extensive network of alleys and laneways
Right-of-Way: Approximately 5–10 m
Context: Mixed-use (Residential/Commercial)
Cost: Varies depending on laneway
Funding: City of Melbourne in partnership with local businesses
Speed: 0–5 km/h (Many laneways do not allow vehicle access. Some allow limited access.)


The revitalization of Melbourne’s laneways began in the early 1990s when the City of Melbourne and state government worked to protect and upgrade the remaining laneways. This was part of a larger regeneration program intended to bring people back to the city after work hours, and make the city an exciting, safe, and hospitable environment.

The streets were cleaned up, and active street frontages and mixed-use development were encouraged. The city worked with universities to encourage the large international student population to live in the city and bring along cultural diversity and energy to public areas.


An ongoing, temporary public art program was developed, bringing a sense of excitement and discovery to the laneways. Small local retailers, particularly cafés, were encouraged to move into the CBD and take up laneway spaces facing the street. Nighttime activity was encouraged with incentives for retailers to stay open for longer hours.

Key Elements

Pedestrian-priority spaces with no vehicular traffic.
Quality paving materials and custom designed lighting.
Removal of obstacles, bollards, curbs, and redundant street elements.
Improved cleaning, supervision of laneways, and wayfinding.
Activation including cultural and arts events.


Revitalize interest and activity in the city’s laneways.
Improve connectivity and legibility throughout the city center.
Provide a high-quality and attractive environment that supports businesses.
Encourage a diverse range of people to live and spend time in the city center.

Lessons Learned

Partnerships with building owners are key to the success of laneways.
Partnership between the municipality and small retailers has generated investment in laneway projects.
Curbside dining proved successful even during colder seasons.
Melbourne’s laneways have become a highly popular tourist attraction.


City of Melbourne, local business associations, artist collectives, and resident associations.

Melbourne laneways site map

A few of the best-known laneways in downtown Melbourne create a series of shortcuts for pedestrians to navigate the city center.

  1. Malthouse Lane
  2. Hosier Lane
  3. Degraves Street
  4. Centre Place Lane
  5. Block Place
  6. Union Lane
  7. McKillop Street
  8. Hardware Lane

Project Timeline


During the 19th and 20th centuries the laneways were privatized, closed off, built in, and neglected.

However, in the 1990s, the true potential of the laneways was identified. Since then, efforts have been made to upgrade and further develop the laneways.

Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.