“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’
It’s a simple equation, really: walking + history + people + urban literacy = strong, vibrant communities. This Saturday and Sunday (May 1 & 2, 2010) you can be part of the equation by participating in Vancouver’s Jane’s Walk 2010.
Fun Fact: Jane’s Walk is a Canadian creation that has been exported around the world – today, there are over 400 Jane’s Walks taking place on Earth. And you can be a part of it.
The Vancouver initiative is developed and driven by Think City, which, according to their website, “helps citizens understand the issues facing their communities while developing collective solutions to protect the environment, strengthen local economies, advance democratic rights and ensure access to quality public services.” After all, walking, as our Resident Architect, Stewartworks, will tell you, is perhaps the best method of transportation for properly engaging a community.
Jane’s Walk is all about the ideas of Jane Jacobs – writer, activist, Uncle Sam Impersonator – who stood up for the interests of local residents and pedestrians in opposition to a car-centered approach to planning. The event strives to take Jacobs’ ideas to communities unfamiliar with her ideas, like Phoenix, in order to advance raise awareness for people-first planning and design. The walks bring people together based on shared interest; some of the best communities have been formed by strangers going for walks.
Recently, I sat down with Jane’s Walks Vancouver coordinator, Kim Fleming, who let me know about the impact this event makes on communities. “Jane’s Walk builds community in a number of ways. Firstly, it gets people out of their cars walking around their neighbourhoods talking to their neighbours! The idea behind Jane’s Walk is that it is a dialogue that happens while you are are on the walk. The tour host is more like a fascilitator who has knowledge around a theme and the idea is to engage interested people and have them share their knowledge, ideas and experiences as well. Walkers get a broader picture of their community and the people who live in it.”
And, in true Gumboot style, I asked Kim to identify her three favourite things about Jane’s Walks:
1. It builds community!(see above)
2. It allows us to discover and re-discover our city through pedestrian focused activities and the use of public space…all public space which includes our sidewalks, laneways, parks, school yards, boulevards etc…
The great surprise in the Olympics for me was the use of public space and the great sense of community that using those spaces built, pride in our community, our city and connection with our fellow citizens. We don’t, in Vancouver, use our public spaces in this way very often and our planning does not factor in the importance of it. But we saw with the Olympics that it is important and what we see with Jane’s Walk, which is all about this, is that Vancouverites have a hunger for it! It is our city after all.
3. Walkability. It’s fun, its healthy, its free! Exploring is fun. Stories are fun! People are interesting. Jane’s Walk is just a starting point. Walkability is a concept that can carry through every time you put foot to pavement, not just on a Jane’s Walk, when you go to the cornerstore think about how it got there, (is there a cornerstore? where would one be if there was….)how is the sidewalk used that you are walking on, who uses it?…
Needless to say, I will be attending a Jane’s Walk on Sunday. And I’m lucky. Because my guide is pretty much the Indiana Jones of Jane’s Walks. His name is Phil Skipper and he will be facilitating a community-minded jaunt around Douglas Park and the South Cambie ‘hood. From Phil, I expect to experience humour, random (seemingly impossible) facts, excellent questions, and possibly coordinated dance off against another tour-group and/or some unsuspecting neighbours. You can register for Phil’s walk by following this link.
Finally, before, during and after the walk take lots of pictures. Later from home, upload your best photos to Flickr and add thinkcity and janeswalk10 as tags. If you have a Twitter account, please update your status with anything of interest you see or learn along the walk. Use #janeswalk10 and #janeswalk before your message. Be collaborative and social – after all, it’s all about community!