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In Upper and Lower Canada, concession roads were laid out by the colonial government through undeveloped land to define lots to be developed; the name comes from a Lower Canadian French term for a row of lots. Concession roads are straight, and follow an approximately square grid, usually oriented to a local lakeshore. They are 100 chains or 1.25 miles (2.0 km) apart, so that two consecutive north-south concession roads and two consecutive east-west roads enclose 1,000 acres (4 km2). These 1,000 acres (4 km2) were then divided into lots according to various plans.

Concession roads were sometimes numbered consecutively. For example, in the area which became Torontomarker, Ontariomarker, the southernmost east-west concession was the 1st concession road (now Queen Street East and West), the next concession to the north was the 2nd concession road (now Bloor Street), and so on.

In some areas, each side of the road is a numbered concession. For example, townships in Bruce Countymarker considered each side of a road to be a concession: for example, traffic driving east could be on Concession 2 while traffic driving west would be driving on Concession 3. In this system, for the purposes of road signage the odd numbers are ignored, so each concession is numbered 2, 4, 6, and so on. These roads were numbered in such a way to make the numbering of farm lots easier, especially along township boundary roads where both sides of the road were in a different township. Currently the "odd numbered" concession numbers are only used to identify exact address numbers for farm lots (for example: Lot 18, Concession 11, Brant Township, which would reside on the north side of Concession 10).

Roads which led away from a lake or river (i.e.: perpendicular to the concessions) were called sidelines or side roads and Line frequently appears in Ontario road names as the equivalent of Road, although confusingly, in some townships "line" has the same meaning as "concession". For example, Guelphmarker Line, 12th Line, and Brown's Line are important thoroughfares in and west of Toronto. The sideroad name survives in Clarke Side Road (also known as Clarke Road) in Londonmarker. The first concession was often known as the baseline from the surveying term, and roads with that name survive in many municipalities, including Ottawamarker and Claringtonmarker. The first concession was also frequently known as the front, or broken front (B.F.) when it was on a lakeshore.

Side road or sideline numbering varies depending on the township. Many townships in Bruce County, for example, are numbered in multiples of 5: starting with the town line (township boundary), then numbered 5, 10, 15, and so on, according to the lot number of the abutting parcel in the original township survey.

Many of the concession roads retain their original names. Less developed areas are often referred to as the back concessions or back roads.

Since in most of Upper Canada this surveying preceded urban development, most Ontario municipalities have grid patterns of streets. In cities, the concession roads tended to evolve into the major streets.

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