Alley-Driving in the Highlands: Terrific and Terrifying

Venice, Italy has one of the most unique transportation scenarios in the world. An amazing system of canals runs throughout the historic city creating boat traffic on the water instead of vehicle traffic on the street. In the Highlands of Louisville, we too have a number of unique features when it comes to our style of transportation. If you’re traveling on Baxter Ave and Bardstown Rd, you need to know how to navigate the pinball lights. However, if the main streets are jammed and you think there is no hope for you to get where you need to go, you may just need to get to know the intricate system of alleys that runs through the Highlands.


Alley Driving in the Highlands
Alley Driving in the Highlands

If you’re stuck, there might be a way out. Behind and between every major thoroughfare in the Highlands is an alley that runs parallel to the street. Traffic and stop lights can really beat you down at certain times of day, and while I like to remain proud of how well the Highlands handles the heavy traffic, there are times when the frustration takes over and you need to pioneer a new route. If you find the right alley, it will take you to your destination in a fraction of the time that the traffic-laden main streets will. I have successfully driven from Highland Ave all the way down to Douglass Blvd using only alleys and two side streets, and it takes no time. I know, I’m kind of a big deal. Seriously though, there are alleys everywhere in the highlands, and the only way you can figure out how to use them is by giving it a test run. Come up with your own alley “cocktail” where you mix up a few different alleys in order to create the best route for you. Also try mixing in streets like Norris Place, Barret Ave, and Spring Drive, and you will have an express route.


With a speedy (and sometimes shady) new way to drive, there will be some pitfalls. A few things to be aware of when you decide to brave the alley scene:

1> Some people have been driving these alleys for decades. They can be spotted by their speed, 60 MPH. Watch out for veterans!

2> There are lots of driveways, garages, and parking lot entrances off of these alleys. You must pay attention and look for traffic filtering onto the alleys from other places.

3> There are also a lot of pedestrians that walk through the alleys. No points are awarded for running people over.

4> There is an unwritten etiquette to driving on a Highlands alley. The roads are hardly big enough for two cars to pass side-by-side, yet most of the alleys are two-way streets. Slow down a bit and move over as far as you can in order to pass an oncoming vehicle. Sometimes it will be difficult to pull over any further than you already are (due to trash cans, recycling bins, and other obstacles). Both drivers should visually assess each other’s situation and drive accordingly.

5> The hardest part of alley driving comes when you approach an intersection at a busy street and you attempt to cross over that street in order to continue on the alley. LOOK OUT. People can’t always see you coming out of an alley because not everyone knows that these alleys are even there. Plus, with street parking, it makes it almost impossible to notice an alley entrance.

6> The most important part of alley driving is that you always wave to oncoming drivers as you pass, thanking them for knowing and obeying the unwritten rules of the alley.

Keep these few tips in mind while you hunt for a new route, and you might just end up saving yourself some time and a headache!

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