Jane’s Walk is a thriving Canadian innovation that’s going global. Last year 46 cities took part across North America. This year Jane’s Walks will span 65 cities worldwide (28 in Canada, 30 in the U.S, 7 internationally) with some 370 walking tours on offer. New Jane’s Walk partnerships this year include Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, Seattle, Chattanooga, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Sault Ste Marie, Kamloops, Victoria, and Jane’s Walk is also expanding internationally with walks scheduled in La Paloma Uruguay, Goa India, Dublin Ireland and Madrid Spain.
Celebrating the legacy of Jane Jacobs, the foremost urban thinker of recent times, Jane’s Walks inspire citizens to get to know their city and each other by getting out and walking. Jacobs famously declared that walkable, diverse and mixed used neighborhoods are the hallmark of a healthy city and its people.
“For Jane Jacobs, the best way to get to know the city and the neighbours was on foot,” says Jane Farrow, executive director of Jane’s Walk. “Jacobs encouraged everyone to just get out and look around, to walk the sidewalks and talk about what they thought needed to happen to make their neighbourhood better.”
“When it comes to improving their own neighbourhoods, people are often isolated or unaware of others who may share their interests,” Farrow adds. “Jane’s Walk helps bridge these gaps and encourages people to gain new perspectives on the sidewalks they use for the basic tasks of daily life – tasks like shopping, getting to school and work.”
Volunteer tour guides, ranging from aspiring municipal candidates to urban planners to recent immigrants and high school students, customize their tours with personal stories, local perspectives and insider hideaways to help bridge social and geographic gaps and create a space for cities to discover themselves.
This year’s walks have the town covered with everything from the formal to the far-out:
• Check out Guelph’s History of Letting it All Hang out: Public nudity and public hangings
• Walk along the first phase of Winnipeg’s Rapid Transit development to see how it fits into a vision of walkable, mixed-usage neighbourhoods;
• Explore Berlin’s rich heritage of typography on a walk that focusses on street and store names, type and building names;
• Regina invites you to Skateboard through the Suburbs while taking in a local artshow and talking about the city from the perspective of skaters;
• Toronto’s Corridors of Power will be the subject of one politically timely walk as the city faces a municipal election in the fall;
• Discuss the future of Village des Tanneries, a resilient Montreal community once again under threat by a plan to rebuild the aging Turcot Interchange;
• Rediscover Calgary’s misremembered past in the patterns and echoes of Inglewood;
• Go on a Wreck Beach – Walk on the Wild Side in Vancouver;
• And new this year – a self-guided MP3 audio tour all about Jane Jacobs and her Annex neighbourhood is available on our website.
Organizers of Jane’s Walk are offered free support and advice about how to program and publicize the event. Local partners get free web support, tip sheets, poster and publicity templates and access to an on-line forum where they meet and chat with other organizers, getting insider tips and best practices. Some Jane’s Walks are quickly organized in less than a week – it’s as simple as telling folks where to meet and hosting a walking conversation with other interested residents and visitors. In other places Jane’s Walk is planned for months by a range of committed volunteers who program dozens of walks and promote them widely.
Whatever scope the local organizers decide on, Jane’s Walk has quickly become a powerful and adaptable vehicle for bringing people together to express their hopes and insights for livable and resilient places to live and work. As one organizer enthused “Jane’s Walk is an interesting, easy and effective engagement tool — simple ask, no cost, big response from community. People were thrilled that hundreds of others were taking part in the walks across Canada.”
Jane Jacobs’ eye was always at ground level, and she felt strongly that no grand planning scheme could substitute for an understanding of people’s everyday experience of the city. For her, the best way to get to know parks, sidewalks and streets was to get out and walk around, especially with some local residents. First published in 1961, Jane Jacobs’ classic book The Death and Life of the Great American Cities was based on the day-to-day observation of street life in diverse city neighbourhoods. Jane’s Walk invites city-dwellers to get out of their cars and get connected, to strike up a conversation, and keep it going after the walk over a coffee, on the sidewalk, or sharing a seat on transit.
About Jane’s Walk
Towers on the North Kipling Ravine, Toronto 2009 (Credit: Kevin Murray)
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
— Jane Jacobs, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’
Jane’s Walk Vision
Walkable neighbourhoods, urban literacy, cities planned for and by people.
Jane’s Walk is a series of free neighbourhood walking tours that helps put people in touch with their environment and with each other, by bridging social and geographic gaps and creating a space for cities to discover themselves. Since its inception in 2007, Jane’s Walk has happened in cities across North America, and is quickly expanding internationally. In 2009 Jane’s Walks were held in 46 cities with a total of 315 walks offered. In 2010 there are 65 cities with over 370 tours on offer. All Jane’s Walk tours are given and taken for free.
The main Jane’s Walk event takes place annually on the first weekend of May, to coincide with Jane Jacobs’ birthday. Jane’s Walks can be organized and offered any other time of the year by enthusiastic local people or organizations, although the first weekend in May is where we focus our organizational energies and resources.
Jane’s Walk honours the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning. Jane’s Walk often takes Jacobs’ ideas to communities unfamiliar with her ideas, in order to advance local engagement with contemporary urban planning practices. The walks helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership.
Thousands of people have taken part in a Jane’s Walk. Past walks have explored a wide range of urban landscapes, from social housing slated for redevelopment to areas with a rich architectural and cultural heritage, to teen hangouts and secret gardens. Walks are led by individuals and small groups. Some are focussed around historical themes more than geographical areas, for instance, some strolls have been built around ideas like the urban forestry, gay and lesbian history, places of relevance to the homeless, the history of ‘skid row’, and urgent planning matters facing certain neighbourhood. The walks offer a more personal take on local culture and issues. They are not a tourist driven initiative but an insider tour of a neighbourhood that helps open up a friendly, engaged discussion amongst interested participants.
Jane’s Walk Principles
As always, people face a complex array of challenges and hazards in our social and built environments. The decline in physical health is a problem that is exacerbated by our reliance on mechanical modes of transportation that burden our environment and infrastructure. When it comes to making improvements to the livability and vibrancy of neighbourhoods, people are often isolated or unaware of others who may share their interests. Jane’s Walk helps bridge these gaps and encourages people to explore the sidewalks they use for the basic tasks of daily life – tasks like shopping, getting to school and work.
Jane’s Walk helps make cities and streets safe for all users. We encourage people to get out and walk not just for recreation, but for basic tasks of daily life, shopping, schools and work. Walking not only improves health, it increases social cohesion and connection.
Jane’s Walk helps pedestrians by providing a simple walkability tool kit, available on our website, which gives the basic tools for recognizing, discussing and improving local walking conditions.
Jane’s Walks are usually organized by a broad network of people and groups who share a common concern for making cities more livable but a spectrum of approaches and observations about the neighbourhood, the city, the past and future are welcomed. As with all community organizing, the wider the network, the lighter the organizational load for everyone. A key principle of Jane’s Walk is that it is self-organizing and self-selecting. Tour guides don’t have to be familiar with Jane Jacobs’ work to lead a tour, but we encourage people to find out more by reading her books or consulting our website for more links and primers on her ideas.
Jane’s Walk was inaugurated on May 5, 2007 in Toronto by a group of Jane’s friends and colleagues who wanted to honour her ideas and legacy, Mary Rowe, Margie Zeidler, Chris Winter, Alan Broadbent and Ann Peters. The first Jane’s Walk began with Mayor David Miller proclaiming it Jane Jacobs Day and twenty-seven local guides explored their neighbourhoods with hundreds of appreciative walkers.
Attendance and buzz exceeded all expectations and CBC broadcaster Jane Farrow, who had led a queer-history walk in Toronto for the first Jane’s Walk, came on board as the Executive Director. She quickly organized the event in New York for that fall – eleven tours were offered around Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn, thus proving that Jane’s Walk was highly adaptable and exportable to other cities.
An advisory board formed (Mary Rowe, Margie Zeidler, Max Allen, Hannah Evans, Ann Peters, Alan Broadbent and Linda Weichel), some monies were raised, and Jane Farrow left her job at the CBC. The event quickly grew in Canada in 2008, going from one city to eleven with 141 tours on offer. In Toronto, there were 69 walking tours, including six student-led tours developed through the Jane’s Walk School Edition initiative.
In 2009, Jane’s Walk expanded by 130%, adding many new partner cities in Canada including Regina, Sudbury, and Montreal. Smaller towns like Guelph took on the organizing of an impressive 25 walks, Regina with 13 and bigger centres like Vancouver and Ottawa jumped in with both feet, organizing dozens of walks (including French and bilingual tours) and putting together their own websites. Efforts to take the walks international that year got a boost when we partnered with the Center for the Living City in the US who got Jane’s Walk started in a dozen American cities including New Orleans, Boston and Phoenix. They were also critical in making the connection to organizers in Mumbai, India who led a walk through an ancient neighbourhood that had seen centuries of development, decline and renewal. In 2009 315 walks were offered in 46 cities involving more than 10,000 walkers.
In 2010, our fourth year, Jane’s Walk is expanding again. 370 neighbourhoods will be explored by thousands of people in 65 cities worldwide. In Canada, the walks will be happening in at least 28 cities with new events in Saskatoon, Kamloops, Sault Ste Marie, London, Coboconk, Edmonton, Peterborough and Victoria. Toronto is the birthplace and headquarters of Jane’s Walk and the event here is quite spectacular. Local tour guides offer up the inside scoop on more than a hundred tours a year (115+ in 2010) and create a valued and magical space for the city to discover itself.
Internationally, things are getting very exciting with Jane’s Walks being done in Berlin, Madrid, La Paloma Uruguay, Lusaka Zambia, Goa and Mumbai India and two walks in Dublin, Ireland.
In the US, Jane’s Walks has really taken off this year with 30 cities coming together with a roster of over 60 walks in such places as Chattanooga Tennessee, Seattle, Syracus, Santa Fe, San Juan, Moscow Idaho, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Anchorage and Pittsburgh.
Jane’s Walk is clearly hitting the mark with a wide variety of cities, towns and neighbourhoods, proving that people want and need opportunities to reach out and get to know the places they live and work, and find common cause in city building with the people with whom they share space.
The Jane’s Walk audience includes:
• Anyone who enjoys getting to know their city and neighbours.
• People who want to participate in meaningful conversations about the social and built future of their neighbourhoods.
• People engaged in the work of building cohesive communities and improving the walking environment.
• People who want to change their cities and neighbourhoods, for example to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots in our cities and towns.
• Youth and children who experience the impact of current transportation choices disproportionately, but who are rarely consulted on their aspirations for walking or cycling.
Jane’s Walk was recognized as a Vital Idea by the Toronto Community Foundation in 2008.
Jane’s Walk was awarded the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation’s ‘Active Transportation Champion’ award in 2008.
Jane Farrow, the Executive Director of Jane’s Walk, was recognized as a Vital Person by the Toronto Community Foundation in 2010.