This weekend, thousands of people will take to streets around the world. It won’t be in protest, but rather to celebrate their neighbourhoods. Inspired by the grassroots activism and the ideas of renowned urbanist Jane Jacobs, 2017 marks the 11th annual Jane’s Walk weekend. Covering a range of topics limited only by participants’ imaginations, free, locally organized, tours will take place in roughly 150 cities. These walks can be led by anyone, because as the Jane’s Walk organizers note, “everyone is an expert on the place where they live!”
Free, self-organized tours that celebrate our neighbourhoods are an ideal way to honour Jacobs. She was not a city planner by training, but is considered to be the most influential urban thinker of all time. Rather, she was a writer and activist who spearheaded campaigns to prevent highways and “slum clearance” efforts from destroying the neighbourhoods she called home – first New York City’s Greenwich Village and later, The Annex in Toronto. Her keen observation of the neighbourhoods and cities where she lived were also the basis for much of her writing, including The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which is a must-read for anyone interested in cities and how they function.
Following her passing in 2006, a group of friends and colleagues founded Jane’s Walk to honour her ideas and legacy. What started as a small, local event has blossomed worldwide. Interested in joining a walk this weekend? Check out the Jane’s Walk website, it’s very likely that walks are already planned in your town. And if there’s nothing happening where you live, or the topic closest to your heart is missing, lead your own walk! As Jane Jacobs noted, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Happy walking!
*Image by New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ-62-137838–