Who is Jane, and why are we interested in her walks? Well, the Jane we are talking about here is Jane Jacobs, the Canadian - American author and urban activist whose thinking and writing helped to reshape our ideas about the urban ideals and what cities can be. These walks help to bring us closer to our cities in understanding their history, significance and beauty.
No matter how much you think you know about your city, there’s always something new and interesting to learn or discover! Cities are highly nuanced, each one drastically different than the next in terms of culture, history, residents, and little quirks that make them unique. Around each street corner there is something you never knew existed or a story you have never heard.
Take some time to learn more about the city in which you live, observe the ongoing activity, and reflect on your interactions with your city by attending a Jane’s Walk.
What are Jane's Walks?
Jane’s Walks are free, locally organized neighbourhood walking tours that are led by volunteer tour guides. These tour guides can be anyone who is knowledgeable about specific neighbourhoods and areas of their cities, as well as topics that are important to their cities. While some of the walking tours may be based on architecture and heritage, others focus more on the local culture, personal experiences, and issues faced by residents.
Jane’s Walks occur during the first weekend in May in order to coincide with the birthday of Jane Jacobs, an urban activist and writer.
About Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs was an urbanist and activist that introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities function to city planners, architects, and policy makers. Although Jane wasn’t formally trained as a city planner, her ideas about sidewalks, parks, density, and mixed-use zoning in cities were highly influential. Many of her ideas about how cities function and evolve were introduced in her 1961 book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”
Jane Jacobs encouraged people to become familiarized with the places that they spend time in, whether it is for work, leisure, or the neighbourhood in which they live. This encouragement can be seen in this quote from Jane Jacob’s essay “Downtown is for People,” published in Fortune magazine in 1958:
“No one can find what will work for our cities by looking at … suburban garden cities, manipulating scale models, or inventing dream cities. You’ve got to get out and walk.”
It makes sense that Jane’s Walks were created in her honour! These walks allow citizens to explore, critique, and engage with their cities, just as Jane Jacobs encouraged! Once we get out into parts of our city to discover more about the place where we live, we can find out not only interesting facts about the place, but we can also see the importance of Learning By Walking and the role that sidewalks play in safe active transportation.
Some of the principles that Jane Jacobs advocated for was social equity and that car travel should not be the main consideration when planning our cities. We also must have safe and viable methods of getting around by walking for transportation, and Jane’s Walks are a great refresher for us all on how important urban landscapes are to the way we live our lives!
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