Jane Jacobs, the much loved and lauded urban planner and community activist died in 2006. Jacobs believed that in order to truly know your own city, “you have to get out and walk”. In her honour, a group of friends and colleagues from Toronto organized the first Jane’s Walk in May of 2007. This year 60 cities around the world will take part.
Here in Vancouver the walks are organized by Think City. The first year I organized two walks. A river walk of Renfrew Ravine with the Rivershed Society of BC and Still Moon Arts Society and another one in my own neighbourhood that explored the role of grocery stores in a healthy community. Last year we walked around the neighbourhood again and looked at the food system here and discussed how well we fared in terms of feeding ourselves. This year I’ll lead a walk around UBC Farm.
My walk is already sold out. And by sold out I mean filled because the tours are free. But there are still many other walks to take part in. Think City’s promo e-letter is very enticing with its promise of opium dens, hidden streams and lost villages! My friend Bryan Newson from the City’s Community Public Art Program will be showing folks some of the new pieces done for the Olympics. And the new Create-a-Tour where co-hosts help create the tour along the way sounds like fun.
As the Jane’s Walk web site says, “Jacobs famously declared that walkable, diverse and mixed used neighbourhoods are the hallmark of a healthy city and its people.” How fitting then that these walks “connect people and build communities by promoting urban literacy and citizen engagement”.
I love taking part in these walks because I get a chance to show off my neighbourhood. I’ve found that the 25 or so people who have signed up for my walks each time are from other neighbourhoods, other municipalities even and they may have never seen the real Kitsilano, let alone UBC Farm. They don’t know our hidden treasures or the issues we struggle with here. They get to walk a mile or so in our shoes. I think Jane would be pleased.
Jane’s Walks take place May 1st and 2nd. Anyone can create and host a walk too. If you just want to take a walk, register soon. They’re filling up fast.